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'. Lincoln's navy 




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D ODD1 DllflbB? 1 



by Richard S. West, Jr. 














To my father 


and owes much to many scholars and friends. To all whose 
information, advice, and encouragement were helpful in the 
production of The Second Admiral, a Life of David Dixon 
Porter, xSij-iSyj, and of Gideon Welles: Lincoln's Navy 
Department, the writer is happy again to acknowledge grati- 
tude, for these earlier books were spadework for the present 
one. Particularly is he grateful to Charles Lee Lewis, Professor 
Emeritus, U. S. Naval Academy, his first mentor in the field 
of naval history, and to Professor Louis H. Bolander, librarian 
of the U. S. Naval Academy, retired, whose wide knowledge 
and cheerful assistance in research have informed many pages 
in this book. 

To John L. B. Williams, of Longmans, Green, the author is 
grateful for suggesting the idea and title for Mr. Lincoln's 
Navy, as well as for later criticism and encouragement. For 
their criticism on certain sections of the manuscript the author 
is indebted to two of his colleaguesAssociate Professor Robert 
W. Daly, author of How the Merrimac Won, and Senior Pro- 
fessor William W, Jeffries, whose doctoral thesis concerned 
Commodore Charles Wilkes. Mrs. J, P. C. McCarthy was 
helpful in preparing the manuscript. Finally, to the "best of 
women and of wives" in crusty old Gid Welles's phrase the 
author is in debt for help in every stage of the adventure. 




1. The Overt Acts i 

2. Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens 15 

3. Loss of the Norfolk Navy Yard 29 

4. Gideon Welles Forms a Plan 44 

5. Beginning the Blockade 57 

6. Early Amphibian Operations on the Coast 73 

7. Wilkes and the Trent Affair 89 

8. The Merrimack Threat 99 

9. The Monitor and the Merrimack 115 

10. Launching the New Orleans Campaign 130 

11. The Seizure of New Orleans 144 

12. Early Operations on the "Inland Sea" 158 

13. Farragut on the River 177 

14. Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 
(Part One) 194 

15. Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 
(Part Two) 205 

16. Du Pont and Dahlgren at Charleston 224 

17. The Red River Campaign 242 

18. Mobile Bay 256 




19. The War on the High Seas 271 

20. The Finish at Wilmington 288 
Bibliographical References 307 
Index 321 


(following page 48) 

The Honorable Gideon Welles 

President Abraham Lincoln 

Gustavus V. Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy 

American naval officer going into action new style invented 
by Commodore Farrragut 

Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont 

Commodore Andrew H. Foote 

Admiral David D. Porter 

Admiral David G. Farragut 

Commodore Charles Wilkes 

Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren 

The Battle of Hampton Roads, March, 1862 

U.S.S. Black Hawk 

U.S.S. Hartford stripped for battle 

The Battle of Mobile Bay 

Admiral John A. Dahlgren and group 

Admiral David D. Porter and officers on board U.S.S. Malvern 

New Orleans, Farragut's fleet 

Crew of the U.S.S. Monitor 

"The Peacemakers" by G. P. A. Healy 


List of Maps 


Section of the Gulf blockade coast 68 

Hampton Roads 1 1 7 

The Lower Mississippi River 1 3 1 

The New Orleans forts 145 

Midsection of the Mississippi River 219 

Charleston Harbor 2 3 1 



The Overt Acts 

dent on November 6, 1860, the House Divided began to fall 
apart. The standardbearer of the "Black Republican" Party 
had himself announced his belief that the nation "could not 
long survive half slave, half free." In the view of Southern 
extremists his election itself marked the beginning of the war. 

South Carolina separatists, three thousand strong in Charles- 
ton's Secession Hall, passed an ordinance declaring "that the 
Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other 
States under the name of the United States of America is 
hereby dissolved." The fateful day was Wednesday, December 
20, 1860 -three months before Lincoln took the oath of office, 
four months before Fort Sumter. 

Governor Pickens of South Carolina at once sent repre- 
sentatives to Washington to negotiate with President James 
Buchanan's government for the peaceful surrender to South 
Carolina of all Federal forts, arsenals, customhouses, and 
lighthouses within its boundaries. 

The secession of South Carolina was celebrated at Mobile 
by the firing of a hundred guns and a military parade. Church 
bells were rung and citizens in the streets made fiery Seces- 
sionist speeches. Alabama passed the Ordinance of Secession. 
At New Orleans a hundred guns were touched off and the 
pelican flag of the state was unfurled. Marching Creoles sang 
the French revolutionary "La Marseillaise," and a bust of 
John C. Calhoun, patron saint of Secession, was exhibited 


wearing a revolutionary tricolor cockade. Louisiana, too, en- 
acted the Ordinance of Secession. Other states in the Deep 
South swung themselves on board the new bandwagon. 

In New York City, meanwhile, the New England Society 
celebrated the 240th anniversary of the landing of the Puri- 
tans by a dinner with patriotic toasts and speeches. Andrew 
Jackson's slogan: 'The American Union: it must and shall 
be preserved," was wildly applauded. In the border state 
o Virginia certain citizens of Petersburg raised South Caro- 
lina's palmetto flag; but during the night pro-Unionist hands 
chopped down the flagpole and destroyed the offending 
emblem, 1 

From Secessionist Mississippi a missionary was sent to Balti- 
more to persuade neutral Marylanders to embrace their cause. 
"Secession is not intended to break up the present Govern- 
ment," argued this worthy, "but to perpetuate it. We do not 
propose to go out by way of breaking up or destroying the 
Union as our fathers gave it to us, but we go out for the pur- 
pose of getting further guaranties and security for our rights/' 
The slavery issue, said the Mississippian, "has been a festering 
sore upon the body politic; and many remedies have failed, 
we must try amputation, to bring it to a healthy state. We 
must have amendments to our Constitution, and if we cannot 
get them we must set up for ourselves." 2 

In Washington, D. C,, President James Buchanan shrank 
from commencing a war which his successor would have to 
fight. John B. Floyd, his pro-Southern Secretary of War, who 
had already distributed Federal muskets to arsenals in South- 
ern states, insisted on maintaining forts and navy yards exactly 
as they then were, without reinforcement, Buchanan went 
along with this policy, and assured the Governors of South 
Carolina and Florida that there would be no changes made at 
the Pensacola Navy Yard or at the forts in Charleston Harbor. 

Groups of state militia, however, egged on by zealots and 
hoodlums, trampled underfoot this "gentlemen's agreement" 
with Washington. Arsenals were seized in all the seceded 
states, and great pressure was put upon commandants to stir- 

The Overt Acts 3 

render Federal forts and navy yards to the Southern states. 
Among the forts guarding Southern harbors that were seized 
and occupied by state militia were Castle Pinckney and Fort 
Moultrie in Charleston Harbor, Fort Pulaski in Georgia, 
Forts Morgan and Gaines, the sentinels of Mobile Bay, Fort 
Marion at St. Augustine, Fort Caswell near Wilmington, 
North Carolina, Forts Barrancas and McRee at Pensacola, 
and Forts Jackson and St. Philip on the Mississippi below New 
Orleans. Several were antiquated structures like the Spanish- 
built Forts Barrancas and Marion. Around others clustered 
memories of 1812 and their cannon were mostly of early vin- 
tage. A number of the mouldering piles of antique masonry, 
which uniformed state militia now swept out and began 
living in, had stood vacant for years. But all of these forts, 
regardless of age and condition would be invaluable to their 
possessors after civil war, with its great blockade, had begun. 
The forts and arsenals were just as unprepared for defense 
against the present civil uprising as were the post offices, cus- 
tomhouses, lighthouses, and so on, so that a standard pro- 
cedure of peaceful surrender was evolved in which responsible 
officials, rather than shed the blood of their fellow citizens, 
simply yielded before overwhelming numbers of local forces. 

This benign pattern of peaceful surrender was sidestepped 
by two nonconformists who managed to transfer their com- 
mands to untenanted forts on near-by islands. Major Robert 
Anderson shifted to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and 
Major Adam J. Slemmer took refuge in Fort Pickens on Santa 
Rosa Island at the entrance to Pensacola Harbor. 

Although Anderson was in charge of the several forts at 
Charleston, he had but two companies of soldiers plus a 
brass band of eight, making a total of eighty-three men. They 
were billeted in Fort Moultrie. Castle Pinckney was unoccu- 
pied. Fort Sumter, a three-tiered masonry fort standing on 
an island of New England granite chips in the middle of the 
harbor, was still under construction. Each day some 150 car- 
penters and masons were ferried to and from Fort Sumter. 

Before Lincoln's election, the army engineer in charge of 


construction work on Fort Sumter had requisitioned forty 
muskets from the Charleston arsenal. He had feared an at- 
tempt by a mob to interrupt the work in progress, and had 
planned to issue the arms to certain loyal workmen. Army 
Engineer J. G. Foster's requisition had been cleared, but 
since, after the election, the workmen themselves began to 
show increasing signs of hostility, Foster changed his mind 
about issuing them muskets. On December 17, however, he 
made a routine application to the arsenal for two muskets 
to be issued according to army regulations to the ordnance 
sergeants at Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney. The military 
storekeeper, in view of the now touchy political situation, 
declined to issue these arms without special authorization, 
He could, however, give him the old order of forty muskets, 
whose delivery had been cleared and which were packaged 
and ready for him. Foster accepted the forty muskets, issued 
two to the sergeants, and stowed the remainder in the maga- 
zines of Castle Pinckney and Fort Sumter. 3 

This special "arming" of the untenanted forts was so vigor- 
ously resented by Governor Pickens that Secretary o War 
Floyd had the forty muskets returned to the arsenal. Fort 
Sumter and Castle Pinckney were left without defense beyond 
closed shutters and locked gates. 

While Major Anderson was under orders to avoid every 
act which would needlessly provoke aggression, he was di- 
rected to hold possession of the forts in Charleston Harbor 
and, if attacked, to defend himself "to the last extremity." 
On the day following South Carolina's secession, Secretary 
Floyd clarified by annulling these orders: "Under these in- 
structions, you might infer that you are required to make a 
vain and useless sacrifice of your own life and the lives of 
the men under your command, upon a mere point of honor* 
This is far from the President's intentions. You are to exer- 
cise a sound military discretion on this subject. It is neither 
expected nor desired that you should expose your own life 
or that of your men in a hopeless conflict in defense of these 
forts. If they are invested or attacked by a force so superior 

The Overt Acts 5 

that resistance would, in your judgment, be a useless waste 
of life, it will be your duty to yield to necessity, and make 
the best terms in your power/' 4 

Fort Moultrie commanded the harbor but had no defense 
against such a possible enemy as a mob of angry citizens ap- 
proaching it from the rear. Sand dunes, behind which sharp- 
shooters might take cover, could not be leveled by Major 
Anderson for fear of arousing the populace. A cow might 
wander into the fort from the rear. Major Anderson decided 
that Fort Sumter in the middle of the harbor would be easier 
to defend. 

Quietly, therefore, on the night of December 26, Anderson 
utilized the boats' going out to get the workmen to shift his 
tiny garrison from Fort Moultrie out to Fort Sumter. While 
Anderson was crossing the bay to Fort Sumter, Engineer 
Foster spiked the guns of Fort Moultrie, burned their gun 
carriages, and for good measure chopped down the fort's 

The next afternoon a steamer landed at Castle Pinckney 
state troops, who scaled the walls with ladders and took pos- 
session. After dark, two steamers bearing a similar force 
seized Fort Moultrie. In Charleston the palmetto flag was 
raised over the post office and the customhouse. Two com- 
panies of militia set up a guard around the arsenal. 

The Charleston Mercury fulminated over the Federal gov- 
ernment's "gross breach of faith," and accorded to Major 
Anderson "the unenviable distinction of opening civil war 
between American citizens." 5 Governor Pickens dispatched 
commissioners to Washington to protest Anderson's dis- 
mantling of Fort Moultrie and occupation of Fort Sumter, 
and to urge immediate withdrawal of the troops from the 
harbor of Charleston. President Buchanan refused. 

Secretary of War Floyd supported the South Carolinian 
commissioners, and, when the President still declined to 
abandon the precarious Federal hold on Charleston Harbor, 
Floyd resigned. 

Major Anderson had a food supply barely sufficient to last 


four months, and he would have to survive without such 
conveniences as soap and candles and coal. Moreover, he was 
compelled by the Charleston authorities to retain the i5o-odd 
workmen within the fort so that their subsistence would the 
more quickly deplete his provisions and force him to sur- 

Winfield Scott, the seventy-five-year-old general-in-chief of 
the Army, recommended to President Buchanan that Fort 
Sumter be reinforced and held. "It is Sunday; the weather is 
bad, and General Scott is not well enough to go to church. 
But matters of the highest national importance seem to for- 
bid a moment's delay, and if misled by zeal he hopes for the 
President's forgiveness. Will the President permit General 
Scott without reference to the War Department and other- 
wise, as secret as possible to send two hundred and fifty re- 
cruits from New York Harbor to reinforce Fort Sumter, 
together with some extra muskets or rifles, ammunition, and 
subsistence stores?" 

With the President's approval, Scott dispatched Lorenzo 
Thomas, an aide, to New York to organize a secret relief ex- 
pedition. From M. O. Roberts the steamer Star of the West 
was chartered at twelve hundred dollars per day. She was 
loaded with provisions and cleared on the afternoon of Janu- 
ary 5 as for a normal run to New Orleans. Outside New 
York Harbor after nightfall she was met by several steam 
tugs belonging to A. H. Schultz, which brought off to her 
from Governor's Island two hundred soldiers and three hun- 
dred muskets. As a further precaution to preserve secrecy, 
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas cut off all communication be- 
tween Governor's Island and the city for the next four days. 

In Washington, meanwhile, General Scott obtained from 
the Navy Department the assignment of the sloop of war 
Brooklyn, then lying at Norfolk, to accompany the Star of 
the West to afford aid in case she should be "shattered or 
injured/' and to bring back the troops in case they should 
be unable to land at Fort Sumter. 7 

A War Department telegram to New York ordering the 

The Overt Acts y 

Star of the West to stop at Old Point Comfort did not arrive 
until after the ship had sailed for Fort Sumter., but this 
bungling attempt to modify the original sailing order caused 
information of the expedition to leak out and Charleston 
was forewarned by notices in the press of the coming attempt 
to reinforce and provision Fort Sumter. 

The relief ship arrived off Charleston Harbor at midnight 
of January 8 to find coast lights extinguished and channel 
buoys removed. Near daylight the Star of the West sighted a 
steamer lying in the main ship channel but was unable to 
answer her recognition signals. The Star of the West,, flying 
the American ensign, followed this steamer into the bay as 
close to Morris Island as possible to avoid coming within 
range of Fort Moultrie. When less than two miles from her 
goal, she was fired upon by a new masked battery near the 
north end of Morris Island. Although a full-sized United 
States flag was now displayed at the fore, she continued to 
be fired on by the South Carolina battery. Most of the balls 
passed overhead. One just missed her machinery. Another 
landed a few feet from her rudder. A ricochet shot struck in 
her forechains two^ feet above the water line and just below 
where the leadsman was standing to sound the channel. With 
long-range fire from Fort Moultrie now opening upon her, 
the ship reluctantly came about and returned to New York. 

Three days later, as the Star of the West nosed into New 
York, the U.S.S. Brooklyn arrived off Charleston Harbor to 
learn that the Secessionists had sunk five vessels to obstruct 
the passages over the bar to the harbor, that the Charleston 
lights were put out, that pilots had been forbidden to go on 
board armed vessels, and that batteries had been planted all 
along the shores. 

From Fort Sumter Major Anderson enquired of South 
Carolina's governor whether the firing "upon an unarmed 
vessel bearing the flag of my Government" had had the gov- 
ernor's sanction or authority and was informed that it had. 
No further efforts being made either to reinforce the gar- 
rison or more clearly to define their hostile relationship to 


the Secession government, Fort Sumter's garrison retained its 
tenuous footing in Charleston Harbor on a sort of * 'wait and 
see" basis wait and see what Mr. Lincoln would do. 

General Scott's directive to prevent the seizure of the 
Pensacola forts reached Lieutenant Slemmer on January g, 
the day the Star of the West was fired upon at Charleston and 
just twenty-four hours before Florida passed her own ordi- 
nance of secession. 

There were three forts at Pensacola: Barrancas, McRee, 
and Pickens. The first two were on the mainland, while Fort 
Pickens, ungarrisoned, stood like a gatepost at the harbor 
mouth on the western tip of Santa Rosa Island. The major 
prize for which these forts were the shield was the navy 
yard near Warrington village, some seven miles down the 
bay from the city of Pensacola. The commandant of the navy 
yard was Commodore James Armstrong, aged sixty-seven, 
with fifty years of service in the Navy behind him. To defend 
the three forts, Lieutenant Slemmer had forty-six men. These 
were billeted in Barrancas barracks, a building separate from 
the antiquated little Spanish-built Fort Barrancas and en- 
tirely without means of defense if confronted with civil dis- 
turbance. The navy yard, too, was defenseless, except for its 
low wall and its battery of two dozen salute guns with rotten 

For the past week, because of rumors of attack, Lieutenant 
Slemmer had kept in touch with Commodore Armstrong. But 
the superannuated naval officer, in the absence of orders from 
Washington and surrounded by actively pro-Secessionist offi- 
cers on his staff, judged it inexpedient to take action oa the 
basis of mere rumor. 

On the morning of the ninth, however, Armstrong re- 
ceived from the Navy Department instructions similar to 
Slemmer's. The artillery lieutenant and the naval comman- 
dant now decided that, with their limited means, they could 
hold but one of these forts and that that should be Fort 
Pickens; as it commanded the harbor, it could be reinforced 
from outside in the Gulf, and, being situated on ail island, 

The Overt Acts g 

would be most easily defended. Armstrong, believing de- 
fense of the navy yard not feasible, agreed to give Slemmer 
all the ordinary seamen he could spare from the yard (he had 
eighty) and to send the screw steamer Wyandotte (five guns) 
and the naval storeship Supply (four guns) to help shift 
Slemmer's garrison from Fort Barrancas across the bay. 8 

These arrangements were repeatedly interfered with by 
two pro-Secessionists of the commodore's staff, Commander 
Ebenezer Farrand and Lieutenant F. B. Renshaw. Slemmer 
had to make several trips back to Armstrong's office to beat 
down the opposition of the hostile aides. 

Lieutenant Henry Erben, a junior officer on the Supply, 
tried in vain to persuade Armstrong to let him blow up the 
powder magazine that lay outside the walls of the yard. A 
forthright individual, Erben became involved in a political 
argument, clinched with a pro-Secessionist officer, and rolled 
down the commandant's stair like a bulldog without releasing 
his hold on the man until he reached the bottom. 

At 8:00 A.M. on January 10 a barge and a number of small 
boats from the navy yard were brought to the wharf at Fort 
Barrancas and loaded with troops and ammunition. Kegs of 
powder which could not be carried on this first trip were 
rolled to the beach to be later transported over to Fort 
Pickens or else destroyed. All the guns in Barrancas were 
spiked and the ammunition at Fort McRee was blown up, 
as Slemmer had neither the means nor the time to save them. 

The next day Slemmer received from Commodore Arm- 
strong only thirty of the eighty seamen he had hoped for, and 
on the twelfth the Supply dumped on the beach near Fort 
Pickens the food stores for its garrison. 

The twelfth was a day dark with occasional showers. Com- 
modore Armstrong learned that Alabama had seceded and 
that her militia had seized the gateway forts at Mobile Bay. 
Definite information reached him that an armed force was 
gathering to capture his own Pensacola Navy Yard, and he 
was depressed by the futile, all-is-lost advice of his pro- 
Secessionist aides. Should he make "a bloody and bootless" 


resistance? ''Great God," agonized the old commodore, "what 
can I do with the means that I have?" The President's mes- 
sages and public opinion spoke with one voice: civil war 
should be avoided at all costs. Into the commandant's be- 
fuddled ears Commander Farrand and Lieutenant Renshaw 
continually dinned that resistance would shed the blood of 
kinsmen and brother, that a surrender would not be to a 
foreign enemy but to fellow Americans. 

The day of April 1 2 was so wet that the gate sentries could 
not charge their muzzle-loader muskets. During the morning 
uniformed militia from Alabama joined with Florida militia- 
men in citizen's dress in the seven-mile march from Pensa- 
cola to the navy yard. Their number was reported to the 
commodore as between five hundred and eight hundred. A 
half mile from the yard they halted and peacefully seized the 
naval magazine. 

At noon two commissioners appointed by Governor Perry 
of Florida were escorted into Commodore Armstrong's office. 
They were Captain Victor M. Randolph, late of the U. S. 
Navy and designated by the governor to take charge of the 
Pensacola Navy Yard, and Richard L. Campbell. 

"Although I have served under the flag of the United 
States in sunshine and in storm for fifty years," groaned the 
commodore, 'loving and cherishing it as my heart's blood, 
I will strike it now, together with the blue pennant, the in- 
signia of my present command, rather than fire a gun or 
raise my sword against my countrymen, especially in circum- 
stances like the present, when I am without the means of: 
defending my position and when an attempt to do so would 
result in a useless loss of life and destruction of property.'* 10 

So saying, he signed a capitulation turning over public 
property in the yard to the State of Florida and guaranteeing 
to the United States officers and citizens attached to the sta- 
tion the freedom to remove their families and property or to 
remain on parole. 

There were sharp and bitter conflicts of loyalties. William 
Conway, seaman, who was directed by Lieutenant Renshaw 

The Overt Acts n 

to haul down the United States flag, indignantly refused to 
obey the order. The squad of thirty-nine marines, who early 
in the morning had been formed under arms, were now com- 
manded to stack their pieces. "It was an order," testified the 
marine sergeant, "that all of the men seemed very reluctant 
to obey. They were very much affected, some of them to tears, 
and said they would not obey; they would not suffer the 
humiliation; they would sooner be shot." ai Some of them 
held on to their muskets as long as an hour after the direction 
was given before relinquishing them. The muskets were not 
loaded. It was a wet day. Later in the afternoon, three hun- 
dred Florida and Alabama militiamen marched into the navy 
yard and occupied the barracks. Captain Randolph, the 
Florida-appointed commandant, chose Commander Farrand 
to be his executive officer. Commodore Armstrong, dodder- 
ing in a daze about the yard, declined to give any further 
orders when his puzzled seamen requested them, mumbling 
that he was himself a prisoner of war on parole. 

Just before the disturbance began at Pensacola Navy Yard, 
the storeship Supply had received orders to carry coal and 
provisions to the American vessels stationed off Vera Cruz, 
Mexico. Not having been able to load on these supplies, 
Commander Henry Walke, her skipper, now risked a general 
courtmartial by employing his vessel to carry north the 
Unionist personnel of the navy yard and their families. 
Among the ninety-nine persons on Walke's passenger list, 
ironically enough, were eleven mechanics, four warrant offi- 
cers, twenty-seven ordinary seamen, and thirty-four marines 
"paroled prisoners of war," who, save for Commodore Arm- 
strong's dilatoriness, might at this moment have been doing 
essential duty in Fort Pickens. 12 

The Brooklyn, after her return from Fort Sumter, was sent 
with a company of soldiers from Fortress Monroe to re- 
inforce Slemmer at Fort Pickens, and Secretary of the Navy 
Isaac Toucey ordered the Sabine, under Captain H. A. 
Adams, and the St. Louis, under Captain C. H. Poor, from 


the Home Squadron off Vera Cruz to proceed at once off 
Pensacola Harbor. 

From Washington by train to Pensacola naval Secretary 
Isaac Toucey dispatched Captain Samuel Barron on January 
21 with instructions to warn the vessels not to enter Pensa- 
cola Harbor, but to remain outside, landing their troops and 
marines as near to Fort Pickens as possible, and, having done 
so, to stand by to use their broadsides to defend the fort from 
attackers. Captain Barron found the situation in the harbor 
tense but friendly. Authorities on shore were allowing the 
Wyandotte to carry out mails and fresh provisions to Fort 
Pickens. Barron stationed Lieutenant Berryman of the Wy- 
andotte outside the harbor to warn naval ships not to enter. 
Barren's effort to prevent a collision seemed, he reported, 
"to have given great satisfaction and comfort to all." " 
As a matter of fact, a group of Southern politicians, including 
Colonel W. H. Chase, head of the armed forces of Florida, 
and Senators S. R. Mallory and John Slidell were busy nego- 
tiating an ''armistice" to freeze the situation in Pensacola 
Harbor as it now stood. 

Assured by the Florida politicians that Fort Pickens, with 
its garrison of eighty men, would not be assaulted by their 
fifteen hundred militiamen if Pickens were not reinforced, 
the Secretaries of War and of the Navy in Washington sent a 
joint order to Lieutenant Slemmer and the captains of the 
several naval ships en route to Pensacola that the troops on 
the Brooklyn were not to be put on land ''unless said fort 
shall be attacked or preparations shall be made for its attack/* 
Provisions were to be landed and the warships were to remain 
on the station, exercising utmost vigilance and prepared at 
a moment's notice to disembark the troops. 

This armistice arrangement lasted until Lincoln's inaugura- 
tion. The company of soldiers under Captain Israel Vodgcs, 
U. S. Army, remained uncomfortably billeted afloat. The 
Brooklyn, the Macedonia, the Sabine, and the S*. Louis re- 
mained off the entrance to the harbor, their glasses trained 
across the flat sand island to the bay beyond, over which an 

The Overt Acts 13 

invading force would have to come. Captain Barren, the 
Federal emissary, who was comfortably housed at the navy 
yard, reported that some of the militia from other states were 
to be sent home, and that as a result of the armistice the 
Wyandotte was being permitted under flag of truce to carry 
coal and provisions to the fort. Lieutenant O. H. Berryman, 
the skipper of the Wyandotte^ managed even to bring fresh 
water to the menacing ships outside the harbor, despite per- 
sonal friction between himself and Commander Farrand at the 
navy yard. "Things look if not brighter/' reported Berry- 
man, "at least we have some scintillations of light." 14 

But the ability of the Federal ships outside the protected 
harbor to reinforce Fort Pickens on short notice was, to say 
the least, doubtful. They had to lie two miles off shore, and 
they possessed no steam tugs to tow their launches. A south- 
wester on February 10 dispersed and drove some of them 
almost down to Mobile. A norther on the twenty-fifth blew 
them straight out into the Gulf. Moreover, as senior Captain, 
H. A. Adams of the Brooklyn pointed out, should the armis- 
tice agreement break down, the people on shore would have 
the advantage of prior knowledge of it. 

While uncertainty beclouded the situation at Pensacola, 
there was none of this at the remoter Federal outposts in 
Florida, Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas and Fort Taylor at 
Key West. In answer to rumors that five hundred hot Seces- 
sionists from New Orleans were about to embark to seize 
these important posts, Lieutenant T. A. M. Craven of the 
U.S.S. Mohawk and Lieutenant J. N. Maffitt of the U.S.S. 
Crusader put gangs of blue jackets ashore to carry supplies 
into Fort Taylor and to help mount cannon in Fort Jefferson. 
Both of these officers won praise from the Navy Department, 
although Maffitt himself soon after resigned to join the Navy 
of the Confederate States. 

As Mr. Lincoln's inauguration drew near, President James 
Buchanan's inertia seemed to stiffen a bit in response to public 
opinion in the Northern states. 

Throughout the North, certainly, most men were ready to 


respond favorably when Abraham Lincoln announced in his 
inaugural address: ". . . the Union of these States is perpetual 
. . , that no state, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get 
out of the Union . . . and that the acts of violence within any 
State or States against the authority of the United States, are 
insurrectionary or revolutionary . . . the Union is unbroken, 
and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Con- 
stitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of 

the Union shall be faithfully executed in all the States 

The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and 
possess the property and places belonging to the Government. 
. . . We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. 
Though passion may have strained, it must not break our 
bonds of affection " 1S 


Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens 

Lincoln, the future Commander-in-Chief of the United 
States Navy, had worked as deckhand on a flatboat floating 
down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. During this trip 
there was etched upon his memory the silhouette of the town 
of Vicksburg as viewed from the river, a scene that he re- 
called when that hilly village became a chief military and 
naval objective during the Civil War. At romantic New 
Orleans, the young man in butternut-colored homespun saw 
fiatbottomed, architecturally boxlike river steamers mingle 
on the river with deep-hulled, streamlined ocean vessels hav- 
ing graceful, towering masts. As a congressman from Illinois 
in 1847-49, during the War with Mexico, he probably visited 
the navy yard at Washington, D. C. But such fleeting tourist 
glimpses constituted the sum of President Lincoln's prior 
experience with things maritime or naval. 

Gideon Welles, Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy, was a 
Hartford editor and postmaster who had come to Washington 
more than half expecting to be appointed postmaster general. 
Fortunately, in view of his surprise assignment to the Navy 
Department, he had been chief of the naval Bureau of Pro- 
visions and Clothing in 1846-48, when Lincoln was a congress- 
man. Welles had a core of stubborn righteousness and hard- 
bitten practicality, and an unusual flair for economy in 
government spending. It is likely, however, that President 
Lincoln valued Welles as an ex-Democrat in his politically 



heterogeneous Cabinet arid as an editor with demonstrated 
capacity to evaluate and to mold public opinion, 

When Lincoln took stock of the country's situation soon 
after his inauguration, the problems of Fort Sumter and 
Fort Pickens loomed larger than others because by March of 
1861 those two precariously held military outposts had come 
to symbolize and encompass almost ail of the main issues 
confronting the nation. Could a solution be found which 
would win back to their allegiance the seven seceded states? 
If not, how might one prevent the remaining slavcholding 
states North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Ken- 
tucky, Arkansas, and Missourifrom leaving the Union? 

Lincoln's statement of policy in his inaugural address, 
praised in the North, was interpreted in the South as "coer- 
cive" in character. The Confederate States Government, 
organized at Montgomery in February with Jefferson Davis 
as president, actively took over and coordinated the scattered 
efforts of the militia in the seceded states. Confederate Gen- 
eral Braxton Bragg, ordered to Pensacola on March 5, strictly 
forbade the citizens there to supply water, fuel, and provi- 
sions to either Fort Pickens or the naval ships "now occupy- 
ing a threatening appearance off this harbor." x General 
P. G. T. Beauregard, the new Confederate commander at 
Charleston, was busy coordinating the build-up of forts and 
batteries around Fort Sumter, The Charleston Mercury, con- 
vinced that the fate of the Southern Confederacy hung "by 
the ensign halliards of Fort Sumter,' * reiterated its demand 
that the menacing handful of "foreign" soldiers be evicted 
from their harbor. 2 

Lincoln turned first to General Scott as one who should 
know how to deal with Charleston, inasmuch as Scott himself 
had been sent there by Jackson in 1833 in a similar situation. 
But Scott was not reassuring. Last January he had strongly 
advised Buchanan to reinforce Forts Sumter and Pickens. At 
that time he had believed that skeleton garrisons could hold 
the forts against armed mobs. Now the old general shook 
his head and counseled Lincoln to try persuasion. In effect 

Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens 17 

his advice was: "Conjure back the seceded states by any con- 
cessions which will induce their return, but if all your offers 
and your promises will not entice them, then, in the last 
resort, you must let them go. Wayward sisters, go in peace/' 3 

Not satisfied with this negative answer, Lincoln put before 
his Cabinet and other military advisers the question: "Assum- 
ing it to be possible to now provision Fort Sumter, under all 
the circumstances is it wise to attempt it?" 4 Professional 
soldiers fell into line alongside General Scott. Extensive 
Confederate preparations in Charleston Harbor had made 
necessary (in Scott's estimate) a force of five thousand regulars 
and twenty thousand volunteers. To recruit, organize, and 
train such a force would require from six to eight months. 
The time for relieving Fort Sumter had run out. Sumter's 
food supply would be exhausted by April 15. As evacuation 
of Fort Sumter appeared "an inevitable necessity/' Secretary 
of War Cameron suggested that the sooner it was abandoned 
the better. 

Secretary Welles saw no reason to "impeach the conclu- 
sions" of the military. "In a political view/' reads his memo- 
randum to the President, "an impression has gone abroad that 
Sumter is to be evacuated and the shock caused by that an- 
nouncement has done its work." 5 Abandonment o the posi- 
tion would be attributed to the previous administration, 
Welles argued. Hence, under all the circumstances it would 
be unwise to provision Fort Sumter. Secretary of State Seward 
thought it best to let the cotton states go. 

The one Cabinet member who was so antagonistic to 
General Scott's view that he offered to resign if an attempt 
were not made to provision Sumter was Montgomery Blair, 
the postmaster general. Blair was the brother-in-law of a 
dynamic and furiously energetic former naval officer who had 
proposed to Buchanan's government a plan for relieving Fort 
Sumter and who now through Blair himself renewed his offer 
to the Lincoln government. 

This former naval officer, Gustavus Vasa Fox, believed that 
the Star of the West might have reached Fort Sumter in 


January if she had held determinedly to her course and 
ignored the really inefficient fire from the rebel batteries, 
Fox's plan called for one large passenger liner to carry troops 
and stores, several small gunboats to move into the mouth 
of the harbor to fend off enemy naval craft, and one large 
war vessel to supply small boats and seamen to man them, 
with which the supplies and troop reinforcements were to 
be run in to the fort. "Arriving off the bar, I propose to 
examine by day the naval preparations and obstructions. If 
their vessels determine to oppose our entrance, and a feint or 
flag of truce would ascertain this, the armed ships must ap- 
proach the bar and destroy or drive them on shore. Major 
Anderson would do the same upon any vessels within range 
of his guns, and would also prevent any naval succor being 
sent down from the city. 1 ' 6 With surface opposition dispersed, 
Fox's small boats on a full tide at night would race for Fort 
Sumter, Fox was willing to gamble that if the Confederate 
land batteries around the harbor sank one or two, they could 
not knock out all of the small moving targets. Enough would 
get through. 

On the nineteenth of March Lincoln sent Fox by train to 
Charleston to obtain accurate information from Major Ander- 
son, In order to obtain permission to go out to the fort, Fox 
was forced to pledge his word to Governor Pickens that his 
visit was "by authority, for pacific purposes entirely/' 7 He 
was thus unable to communicate freely with Anderson. His 
plan, to be sure, had not yet been adopted. Anderson's men, 
he found, had been working feverishly to ready the fort for 
defense. Fox understood that if Anderson put his men on half 
rations he could hold out until April 15. Apparently Fox did 
not understand that Anderson expected Washington to order 
him to go on half rations. The optimistic Fox returned to 
Washington more convinced than ever of his project's feasi- 
bility. General Scott argued with irrefragable logic that, even 
should Fox succeed once in throwing in a few men and pro- 
visions, the necessity of replenishing supplies would return 

Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens ig 

again and again, and that during the approaching season for 
yellow fever. 

Lincoln, yet wavering, sent his former law partner, Ward 
Lanion, to Charleston. In Charleston Lawyer Lamon, bask- 
ing in momentary fame as "authorized agent of the Presi- 
dent/' advised Governor Pickens that Anderson would soon 
be transferred to another post. Whether his word to Pickens 
had been authorized, it is difficult to say. If so, Lincoln 
repudiated it when he issued the following order to the Sec- 
retary of the Navy: 8 

Executive Mansion 
March 29, 1861 

Sir: I desire that an expedition, to move by sea, be got ready to 
sail as early as the 6th of April next, the whole according to 
memorandum attached; and that you cooperate with the Secretary 
of War for that object. 

Your obedient servant, 

A. Lincoln 
Hon. Secretary Navy. 

Gideon Welles now ordered the only vessels available to 
be immediately fitted for sea. These were the Pocahontas at 
Norfolk, the Pawnee at Washington, and the revenue cutter 
Harriet Lane at New York. To this list on April i Welles 
added the powerful side-wheel battleship Powhatan, which 
had just arrived from the coast of Mexico. Two hundred 
troops were to be brought from New York on the chartered 
steamer Baltic. Ex-naval officer Fox, a civilian, was placed in 
charge of the expedition. 

While the relief expedition was being prepared, a report 
received in Washington from Major Anderson revealed that 
he was expecting orders to vacate Fort Sumter, as Colonel 
Lamon had indicated, and that his food supply was desper- 
ately short. Wrote Anderson: "I told Mr. Fox that if I 
placed the command on short allowance I could make the 
provisions last until after the loth of this month; but as I 
have received no instructions from the Department that it 


was desirable I should do so, it has not been done. If the 
governor permits me to send off the laborers we will have 
rations enough to last us about one week longer," This 
report, dated April i and received on the fourth, caused 
Lincoln so much anxiety that he immediately modified his 
plan for the relief of the fort, Anderson was notified that it 
was not the President's intention to subject his command u to 
any danger or hardship" beyond what in Anderson's judg- 
ment would be "usual in military life." Lincoln's new plan 
was simply to provision Fort Sumter and only in case the 
attempt were resistedto reinforce also with men and arms. 10 

With modified instructions, Fox departed from New York 
in the Baltic on April 8 to rendezvous with the naval craft 
off Charleston Harbor on the eleventh. The day the expedi- 
tion sailed from New York, Robert S. Chew, an employee of 
the State Department, arrived by train in Charleston to read 
to Governor Pickens an official notification; "I am directed 
by the President of the United States to notify you to expect 
an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with pro- 
visions only, and that i such attempt be not resisted no 
effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made 
without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the 
fort." " Mr. Chew's identity and the authenticity of his 
message were vouched for by Captain Theodore Talbot, 
Assistant Adjutant General, who had been sent with Chew 
to bear the identical message to Governor Pickens. 

Captain Talbot now asked permission to go out to Fort 
Sumter. General Beauregard, C. S. Army, denied his request* 
From the Confederate States Government in Montgomery, 
Beauregard explained, had come instructions that no further 
communications with Major Anderson would be permitted, 
except to convey an order for the evacuation of the fort. The 
Federal emissaries, accordingly, departed on the u:oo P.M. 
train for Washington. 

Fort Pickens was in some respects easier to relieve than 
Sumter. This fort's military reinforcements of two hundred 
men were already there, just off the harbor on the U.S.S. 

Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens 21 

Brooklyn, impatiently awaiting release from the "armistice" 
which had held them idle since January. Lieutenant Slem- 
mer's eighty-two men within the fort had marked time by 
mounting cannon and standing many extra false-alarm 
watches. Although General Bragg had cut off the supply of 
fresh provisions from the mainland as of March 5, there was 
crude justice in this, since Fort Pickens had not paid its 
grocers' bills for six months. The January "armistice'* was 
still being observed. The mails, albeit with Confederate 
surveillance, were still suffered to go through, and couriers 
could still travel overland between the fort and Washington. 
The long strain was beginning to tell, however, on both 
Slemmer and his men. A case or two of scurvy had developed, 
and everyone was jittery for fear that on some dark night the 
Confederates would land on Santa Rosa Island, set up bat- 
teries to fend off the ships, and lay siege to their fort. 

Gideon Welles, with all available naval craft allocated to 
the relief of Sumter, sent Lieutenant John L. Worden by train 
to Pensacola with positive verbal instructions to Captain 
Adams of the Brooklyn to land the relief force at once, re- 
gardless of the armistice. 12 Worden assured Bragg that his 
message was "of pacific nature/* and thus got through to the 
ships. On the night of April 12, accordingly, the troops were 
put ashore, along with enough marines to bring the total in 
Fort Pickens to five hundred men. Worden (later commander 
of the Monitor in her famed fight with the Merrimack) had 
the poor judgment to attempt to return north by train 
through the enraged South and was arrested and imprisoned 
in the Confederate capitol at Montgomery. 

Meanwhile, in Washington, Secretary of State Seward was 
sponsoring an effort to relieve Fort Pickens, which, being 
secret and behind the back of the Secretary of the Navy, 
created administrative snarls that involved Fox's expedition 
to Fort Sumter, as well as Seward's own expedition to Fort 
Pickens. 13 

Seward coralled two fast talking officers with plausible 
ideas and took them to the White House. They were Captain 


Montgomery C. Meigs, U. S. Army, and lieutenant David 
D. Porter, U. S. Navy. To Lincoln the three men proposed 
that a military Department o Florida be established under 
Colonel Harvey Brown, U. S. A., whose purpose would be to 
reinforce and securely hold Fort Taylor at Key West, Fort 
Jefferson at Dry Tortugas, and Fort Pickens at Pcnsacola. 
With Europe in view, Seward was particularly interested in 
holding the forts on the Florida keys, which he regarded as 
a sort of American Gibraltar, capable of controlling ocean 
traffic in the Gulf. Porter impressed on the President what 
was already painfully clear, that routine orders could not 
emanate from Navy or War Departments without news leaks, 
so honeycombed were the government departments with 
Southerners resigning, or about to resign, to join the Con- 
federacy. Meigs argued that an expedition setting sail from 
New York to an unknown destination Sumter, Pickens, 
whereverwould create such consternation in the South as to 
discourage even South Carolina in her rebellious efforts! 

Lincoln saw some truth in each of these points of view and 
fell in with their plan to mount a secret expedition to carry 
troops to Forts Taylor, Jefferson, and Pickens. In the Presi- 
dent's anteroom Porter and Meigs, the professional ring- 
leaders in the plot, wrote out the necessary orders and 
Lincoln signed them. 

"Seward," jested the President, "sec that I don't burn my 
fingers/' The Secretary of State's excursion into naval affairs 
reminded Lincoln of the preacher who was induced by a 
gambler to play poker and won all the gambler's money. "It's 
all because we've mistaken our trades/* said the gambler. 
"You ought to have been a gambler and I a preacher, and, 
by ginger I intend to turn the tables on you next Sunday and 
preach in your church/' 14 And he did. 

Among the sheaf of Seward-MeigsJPorter orders which 
Lincoln signed were two that particularly infuriated the 
austere Secretary of the Navy when he learned about this 
undercover business. 

Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens 23 

The first was an executive order directing a change in the 
Office of Detail As his detailing officer, his own right hand, 
so to speak, a man who knew the officers of the Navy from 
intimate lifelong association with them and upon whom 
the Secretary could rely for advice in making out assign- 
ments to duty for this all-important billet Gideon Welles 
had chosen Captain Silas H. Stringham, like Welles, a native 
of Connecticut. At noon on April i, while having luncheon 
at Willard's, Welles was handed the order by John Nicolay, 
one o Lincoln's clerks. The order directed Welles to send 
Captain Stringham to Pensacola and to assign the job of 
detailing officer to Captain Samuel Barron, unquestionably 
an able man but a native of South Carolina and notoriously 
friendly toward Secessionists. In short, Barron was suspect, 
as indeed were all Southerners in Gideon Welles's rigorous 
view. 15 

Abandoning the rest of his meal, Welles went at once to 
the White House and read the document to Lincoln. Lincoln 
seemed surprised, as the Barron matter had no apparent 
relation to the Fort Pickens affair. Lincoln explained that he 
had signed without reading the paper, that Seward and two 
young men, Meigs and Porter, had a project which the Presi- 
dent was unable to disclose at this time. Welles expressed 
surprise that the Secretary of State should trespass so cava- 
lierly upon the navy secretary's domain, Lincoln agreed with 
Welles and promised that he would not allow this sort of 
thing to happen again. 

The second of the Seward-Meigs-Porter documents (Welles 
did not learn about this one for nearly a week) diverted the 
Powhatan from the Sumter expedition (which Welles had 
ordered) to the Fort Pickens expedition (that Seward had 
arranged). The order read: lfl 

Executive Mansion, April i, 1861. 

Sir: You will fit out the Powhatan without delay. Lieutenant 
Porter will relieve Captain Mercer in command of her. She is 
bound on secret service, and you will under no circumstances 


communicate to the Navy Department the fact that she is fitting 

Abraham Lincoln. 
Commandant Navy Yard 
New York 

Secretary Welles's order, bearing the same date and re- 
ceived at the Brooklyn Navy Yard at the same hour, did not 
specify to whom the command of the ship would be given. It 
read simply; 1T 

Washington, April i, 1861. 

lit out Powhatan to go to sea at earliest possible moment. 

Gideon Welles, 
Secretary Navy 

Commandant Navy Yard 
Brooklyn, N. Y. 

Since both orders required him to prepare the Powhatan 
for sea, Captain Andrew H. Foote, the commandant, pre- 
ceded to fit her out. Meigs and Porter arrived in New York 
to push their preparations, and all went well until the fifth, 
when an order from Secretary Welles assigned the Powhatan 
to Captain Mercer to participate in the Sumter relief expedi- 
tion. For forty years Captain Foote had been accustomed to 
report his every action to the Secretary of the Navy. And 
now more than ever, with old friends capitulating and going 
over to the Southern Confederacy, he feared trickery and 
itched to report the situation to the Secretary* Porter re- 
strained him, emphasizing the President's injunction o 

The modus operandi agreed upon by Porter and Mercer 
called for the latter to take the vessel out beyond Staten 
Island and there turn it over to Porter whose order signed by 
the President had priority. This procedure having been 
executed, the Powhatan under Lieutenant Porter set sail 
from New York at 2:45 P.M. on April 6. 

Back at the navy yard, Captain Foote was in the act of 

Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens 25 

writing a full account for the Secretary when a telegram came 
for Porter: 18 



Foote relayed this message on a fast tug chartered for the 
purpose, but Lieutenant David D. Porter returned to Captain 
Foote his regrets that the dispatch had come to his hands too 
late for him to change his plans, his colleague Captain Meigs 
having already sailed with the cooperating troopship Atlantic. 
To Seward the preposterous young officer retorted by tele- 
gram: "I received my orders from the President and shall 
proceed and execute them." 

Seward trudged to Willard's to make his peace with Welles; 
and, although it was late, the two set out for the White House. 
Describing the scene in his journal, Welles noted that, as 
naval secretary, he * 'questioned whether the President would 
detach and send away an officer without at least informing 
the Department, certainly not to take command of a ship that 
was in commission, that such irregular proceedings would 
throw the departments and government into confusion, and 
were wholly inconsistent with correct and systematic ad- 
ministration." On the way to the White House Welles routed 
out of bed his detailing officer, Captain Stringham, to ac- 
company them- "On our way thither/' records Welles, "Mr. 
Seward remarked to me that, old as he was, he had learned a 
lesson from this experience, which was that he had better 
attend to his own business, not interfere with others, and 
confine his labors to his proper Department. To all of which 
I assented." ie 

Lincoln, who had not yet retired, was * 'astonished and 
perplexed" over the confusion of orders that had come about. 
On points where his memory was hazy, Welles supplied the 
official record and Captain Stringham backed him up. Lin- 
coln, like Seward, was made to realize that outside interfer- 
ence was not welcome in Gideon Welles's department. The 
Seward-Meigs-Porter affair, as Welles later stated, served in 


some degree to "define the province of the different depart- 
ments of the Government under President Lincoln." 20 

When Charleston received prior notice of an attempt to 
provision Sumter, it was already on a war footing. By the 
Confederate War Department at Montgomery, General 
Beauregard had been directed to stop all concessions to Major 
Anderson, since his own and Anderson's men had assumed 
"the status of hostile forces . . . who may at any moment be 
in actual conflict/' 21 On April 10 Beauregard was ordered to 
demand that the fort be evacuated, and, if that were refused, 
"to proceed, in such manner as you may determine, to reduce 
it." At 2:00 P.M. on the eleventh Beauregard's messengers 
delivered this demand. Major Anderson penned a courteous 
refusal, which he presented to the South Carolinian emis- 
saries with the remark: "I will await the first shot, and if you 
do not batter us to pieces we will be starved out in a few 
days." 22 

Beauregard, after relaying this latter comment to Mont- 
gomery, received authority to delay the attack if Anderson 
would name the day when he would evacuate. 

Anderson agreed to evacuate if not otherwise instructed by 
his government, and fixed the hour of his evacuation at noon 
April 15. 

At 3:00 A.M. on Friday April 12, Gustavus Fox arrived at 
the rendezvous off Charleston Harbor. Beauregard at 3:20 
A.M. notified Anderson that he would fire on his batteries in 
one hour. 

At 4:30 on this fateful Friday morning Confederate guns 
opened upon Fort Sumter from all sides. 

From his position ten miles off the harbor, Gustavus Fox 
heard the cannonading and was mortified to find that only 
one o the naval vessels of his expedition, the Pawnee, had 
yet appeared at the rendezvous. Fox boarded the Pawnee at 
6:00 A.M., told Captain Rowan that in spite of the Confederate 
bombardment he was going in to offer to land provisions, and 
asked him to accompany him. To the civilian leader of the 
expedition, Rowan replied stiffly that his orders were to re- 

Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens 27 

main ten miles east of the light and await the Poivhatan. 
Fox, with the revenue cutter Harriet Lane as escort, drew in 
close enough to see that Fort Sumter was "replying gallantly." 

The next morning Fox rowed into the mouth of the harbor 
and "saw, with horror, black volumes of smoke issuing from 
Sumter." 2S Fox now learned from Captain Rowan that the 
Powhatan, which Rowan had been ordered to await, had 
been detached from Fox's expedition and sent elsewhere. 
Around 2 P.M. the Pocahontas appeared, just In time to wit- 
ness the surrender of the fort. 

Not only had Fox himself arrived too late, but his major 
support, the Powhatan, had failed him, and the other naval 
ships had been bound by their orders to await the Powhatan's 
arrival ten miles east of the harbor! 

Under a flag of truce the frustrated Fox offered a passage 
north to Major Anderson and his men. General Beauregard 
assented. Before leaving, Anderson was permitted to salute 
his flag with fifty guns. 

The only loss of life inside Fort Sumter had been one 
soldier, killed by premature explosion when charging a 
salute gun. After this unfortunate casualty had been buried 
inside the fort, the powder-grimy, weary garrison marched 
out and were transported to New York on board Fox's 
chartered liner Baltic, 

Meanwhile, the Meigs-Porter expedition arrived in the 
Gulf. Meigs, on board the fast transport Atlantic^ stopped at 
Key West to reinforce Fort Taylor. Meigs interviewed the 
loyal officials of the town and assured them that the com- 
mander of the fort was under orders to support them against 
any Secessionist opposition. Supplies and men were also put 
ashore at Fort Jefferson on lonely Dry Tortugas. 

The Atlantic, bearing Colonel Harvey Brown, the com- 
mander of the new Department of Florida, arrived off Fort 
Pickens on April 17 and by 2:00 A.M. the next day Brown had 
landed and assumed command of Fort Pickens. 24 

According to plan, Lieutenant Porter, who had not yet 
arrived in the slower Powhatan, would attempt to force an 


entrance into Pensacola Bay. Colonel Brown feared that such 
an event would precipitate a collision, and the state of Fort 
Pickens's defenses was so bad, in Brown's opinion, as to force 
him to postpone offering the Confederates any unnecessary 

Porter, in the Powhatan, delayed by heavy gales, head 
winds, and defective boilers, arrived off the mouth of the 
harbor a few hours behind the transport. Meigs, in the 
Wyandotte, flagged him down with imperative orders from 
Brown, and Porter dropped anchor outside. 

As events turned, Fort Pickens made small headlines, but, 
since it could be easily reinforced from outside the enemy's 
harbor, it proved in the long run more valuable than Fort 
Sumter might have been to Mr. Lincoln's Navy. It nullified 
the usefulness to the enemy of the most important navy yard 
south of Norfolk. 


Loss of the Norfolk Navy Yard 


upon, the Virginia State Convention meeting in Richmond 
voted to remain, in the Union and a Unionist politician was 
elected mayor of Portsmouth, Virginia, hard by the country's 
largest and most important naval base, the Norfolk Navy 
Yard. Not that the old Dominion's Secessionist party was 
inactive or lacking in vision. They were, on the contrary, in- 
fused with virile energy and were rapidly increasing in 
numbers. Their ambitious goals included the seizures of the 
Norfolk Navy Yard, Harper's Ferry Arsenal, Fortress Monroe, 
commanding the lower Chesapeake Bay, and, with aid from 
Maryland, they hoped to seize the Federal capital itself. 

From the first, Lincoln had proceeded warily. Normal 
patronage practice would have been to sweep out of the 
Norfolk Navy Yard the jobholders who had been appointed 
by the defeated political party. Instead of harvesting the 
political spoils, the President directed Secretary Welles to 
refrain from "all unnecessary exercise of political party 
authority/' * In short, Lincoln appeased Norfolk's political 
jobholders, hoping that they in return would hold Virginia 
in the Union. Thus, for the critical first six weeks of Lincoln's 
administration, the Norfolk Navy Yard was staffed by civilian 
officials and workers who were Democratic in politics and 
Southern in sympathy. 

News of Fort Sumter instantly paralyzed business in Vir- 
ginia. In alarm over the situation, the Richmond Convention 



requested President Lincoln to define anew his policy toward 
the Confederate States, now well organized and functioning 
in Montgomery, Alabama. Lincoln quoted from his inaugural 
address the passage: "to hold, occupy and possess property 
and places belonging to the Government/' and explained that 
he chiefly alluded to military posts and property "which 
were in the possession of the government when it came into 
my hands/' "But if/' Mr. Lincoln continued, "as now appears 
to be true, in pursuit of a purpose to drive the United States 
authorities from these places, an unprovoked assault has been 
made upon Fort Sumter, I shall hold myself at liberty to 
repossess it, if I can . . . and in any event I shall, to the best of 
my ability, repel force by force. ... I consider the military 
posts and property situated within the States which claim to 
have seceded, as yet belonging to the Government of the 
United States as much as they did before the supposed 
secession." 2 

A few hours later, interpreting the firing on Fort Sumter 
as an unprovoked assault, Lincoln issued a call for seventy- 
five thousand militia. Most of the border states angrily re- 
fused to contribute their quotas of troops. Hitherto neutral 
North Carolina replied by seizing the Federal forts and 
arsenals within her bounds and later on passed a Secession 
ordinance to legalize her acts. Virginia's convention on 
April 17 voted to secede, and the next day Governor Letcher 
appointed a general to take command of the militia at Nor- 
folk and Portsmouth, and ordered a naval officer (Captain 
Robert B. Pegram) to proceed to Norfolk and assume com- 
mand of the naval station. 8 

The Norfolk Navy Yard lay above the cities of Norfolk 
and Portsmouth on the Portsmouth side of Elizabeth River. 
It fronted three quarters of a mile along the river and was a 
quarter of a mile wide. Its dry dock of granite was constructed 
in the same manner as the great dry dock at Charlestown, 
Massachusetts. The yard contained two enormous ship houses, 
or sheds fully equipped for building ships inside them, and 
a third ship house was under construction. For building or 

Loss of the Norfolk Navy Yard gi 

repairing ships of the old Navy of wood and sail, there were 
sail lofts, riggers' lofts, gunners' lofts, sawmills, timber sheds, 
spar houses, carpenter shops. For modern steamers four 
screw steamers and one side-wheeler had been built in this 
yard there were foundries, machine shops, boiler shops. 
Back from the shoreline stood marine barracks and homes for 

There were 1,198 guns of all calibers scattered around the 
yard. 4 Some were of vintage familiar in 1812. The best were 
nine-inch Dahlgren guns, manufactured by the naval gun 
factory to the rigid specifications of their inventor, Com- 
mander John A. Dahlgren. Of these most valuable cannon 
at Norfolk there were fifty-two. 

At a safe distance below the city of Norfolk was located 
a naval magazine known as Fort Norfolk, which, like the 
arsenal at Charleston, was unguarded for fear of arousing 
suspicion among the citizens. 

Of the ten ships berthed at the Norfolk yard on March 4, 
there was only one important capital ship, the steam sloop 
Merrimack, and she, irrespective of her later adventitious 
fame as a rebuilt ironclad, was worth more than all the rest of 
the ships together. This gsoo-ton screw steamer, built in 
Boston five years before the Civil War, was 375 feet long and 
381^ feet across, with a depth of ^71^. She had two gun decks 
and three masts to carry her auxiliary motive-power sails. 
The Merrimack was at Norfolk awaiting repairs to her en- 
gines which the commandant of the yard estimated should 
take a month. In addition to the Merrimack, the only service- 
able craft were two sail sloops, the Germantown and the Ply- 
mouth, of twenty-two guns each and the tiny, three-gun brig 
Dolphin. The antique ship of the line Pennsylvania was in 
commission as a station ship; the New York was still on the 
stocks, unfinished some ten years after the laying of her keel. 
The remaining five vessels were genteel hulks up to forty 
years of age, and moribund. 

The commandant of the Norfolk Navy Yard, Commodore 
Charles S. McCauley, like his counterpart at Pensacola, was 


a sixty-eight-year-old naval officer with fifty years' service. 
Quizzical Gideon Welles scanned his record for blemishes, 
found none, and, hearing only praise of his "fidelity and 
patriotism," continued him in his post. The Secretary was 
aware that a majority of the officers on Commodore Mc- 
Cauley's staff were of Southern descent, but, since the Navy's 
policy prior to Virginia's seceding was to avoid antagonizing 
Southerners, there was no way to foresee that three of the four 
commanders and seven of the twelve officers in lower ranks 
would resign to go South. 5 

To excite no undue suspicion, when in March the Poca- 
hontas and the Cumberland returned from Vera Cruz, Secre- 
tary Welles ordered them to Norfolk to refit. But later, when 
the Pocahontas was sent with Fox to Charleston, the move 
infuriated Secessionist sympathizers in Norfolk. Gideon 
Welles several times in March asked General Scott for troops 
to defend the Norfolk yard, but the old general, his lame leg 
swinging in harness suspended from the ceiling of his office, 
refused to grant any troops. "Norfolk/* said he, "lies in enemy 
country/' The Navy's people could defend themselves on 
shipboard and depart from Norfolk at will; but Army person- 
nel sent to Norfolk would be easily trapped on shore. In 
Scott's view, Fortress Monroe was the point to be held at all 
hazards, and this pentagonal masonry fortification he pro- 
posed to hold with his few hundred available troops. Let the 
Navy bring its ships out to anchorages in the Roads under the 
ample protection of Fortress Monroe, 6 

Finding crews for the ships that were sent to Forts Sumter 
and Pickens completely cleaned out the receiving ships of the 
Norfolk, Philadelphia, and New York navy yards, and in- 
creased the difficulties of Lincoln's Navy in dealing with the 
puzzling situation in Norfolk. As early as March 31, Secretary 
Welles requisitioned from New York a crew of 250 men for 
the Merrimack, and so careful was he to avoid publicity that 
he sent a special messenger to New York to charter a private 
steamer to take them to Norfolk. In three weeks the New 
York Navy Yard managed to recruit 173 seamen, but it was 

Loss of the Norfolk Navy Yard 33 

then too late for them to be sent to Norfolk. The Philadelphia 
yard chartered the Keystone State and brought a crew to 
Hampton Roads just twelve hours after the Merrimack had 
been scuttled. The naval recruiting station in Baltimore 
rounded up a crew which might have reached Norfolk in time 
to save the Merrimack had not pro-Secessionist officials of the 
Baltimore Steam Packet Company flatly refused to transport 
them at a time when there was no other means of transporta- 
tion available. 

On the eve of the firing on Fort Sumter, Welles cautioned 
Commodore McCauley "that great vigilance should be exer- 
cised in guarding and protecting the public interests and 
property." 7 Welles wanted the Merrimack made ready to 
escape in case of unlawful attempts to seize her; yet, at the 
same time, he warned McCauley not to give needless alarm. 
Along with these instructions the Secretary sent Engineer-in- 
Chief B. F. Isherwood to put the Merrimack's engines in 
order and Commander James Alden to assume command of 
the vessel and take her to Philadelphia. 

On the sixteenth, with the firing on Sumter officially con- 
firmed, Welles became alarmed about Norfolk and ordered 
McCauley to ''impose additional vigilance and care in pro- 
tecting the public property." The commandant was to lose 
no time in putting the Merrimack's armament on board and 
moving the other vessels (Plymouth, Dolphin, and German- 
town] out of jeopardy. "The vessels and stores under your 
charge you will defend at any hazard, repelling by force, if 
necessary, any and all attempts to seize them, whether by mob 
violence, organized effort, or any assumed authority." 8 Com- 
modore G. J. Pendergrast on the Cumberland was directed 
to aid in defense of the Norfolk Navy Yard in view of the 
deficiency of men there. These confidential orders were car- 
ried to Norfolk by Commodore Hiram Paulding. 

While Paulding was in McCauley's office, he was ap- 
proached by Commander Richard L. Page on behalf of 
himself and other Southern officers at the yard. They were, 
explained Page, "painfully situated." Their families and in- 


terests were in Norfolk: "there was very great excitement, and 
apprehensions were entertained of violence from the people 
outside of the yard." Although these officers believed that Vir- 
ginia would go out of the Union, Page pledged himself, and 
was authorized by the other officers to pledge them also, to 
stand by the commandant and defend the public property 
with their lives. At the same time Page begged Paulding to 
"say to the Secretary of the Navy that it was very desirable to 
them to be relieved." 9 

Upon his return to Washington, Paulding conveyed the 
officers' statement to the Secretary and to Mr. Lincoln, who 
directed Mr. Welles to have those officers of the yard re- 
placed by Northern men. But before this action was taken 
Virginia had seceded and the Southern officers had resigned. 

Engineer Isherwood, pushing a double crew of workmen 
day and night for four days, got the Merrimack' s engines to 
turning over by four o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, 
April 17. 

During the previous night, however, pro-Secessionists of 
Norfolk had partially obstructed the channel to block the 
Merrimack in. 

The sixteenth was foggy and through the mist the lookouts 
on the flagship Cumberland, at anchor five hundred yards off 
the navy yard, reported that a steam tug towing two light- 
boats had passed by headed down the river. An hour later 
a second tug with another lightboat was seen also bound 
downstream. The captain of the ship dispatched armed boats 
to observe what was going on, and to prevent the Secessionists 
from sinking the lightboats in the channel, but the tugs 
eluded them below Craney Island. "The night was very 
dark, blowing fresh, with rain." 10 

When Isherwood reported to the commodore that he had 
loaded on coal and engaged a sufficient number of firemen 
and coal passers to take the Merrimack to sea, Commodore 
McCauley had just learned that the lightboats had been 
sunk between Craney Island and Sewell's Point. The masts 
of the sunken craft were grotesquely thrusting above water 

Loss of the Norfolk Navy Yard 35 

for all to see. McCauley, influenced by Southerners on his 
staff and leaning over backward to avoid alarming the popu- 
lace, directed Isherwood not to light the boilers until the 
next morning. 

The following morning, April 18, when Isherwood called 
upon the commodore, the latter was in a quandary. This was 
the day following Virginia's secession, and McCauley's South- 
ern officers had resigned in a body. Isherwood reported that 
he had kindled his fires at daybreak and requested McCauley's 
permission to cast loose and go. 

"He then, to my great surprise and dissatisfaction/' reads 
Isherwood's report to the department, "informed me that he 
had not yet decided to send the vessel, but would let me 
know further in the course of a few hours." xl Isherwood 
called the commodore's attention to the peremptory character 
of the Navy Department's instructions, and expressed the 
opinion that the Merrimack would be able to pass any ob- 
structions the enemy could have placed in the channel, adding 
that if he delayed a few hours the vessel would have to remain 
another day because of the tide and that during the night 
the obstructions might be increased. About 2:00 A.M., when 
Isherwood again called upon him, Commodore McCauley 
said that he had decided to retain the vessel and directed that 
her fires be withdrawn, Isherwood, frustrated, returned to 

Gideon Welles heard Isherwood's story and his opinion that 
the aged commodore was "under the influence of liquor and 
bad men/' and a short time later, when Commander Alden 
arrived from Norfolk, Welles was called out of Cabinet meet- 
ing to hear Alden's tale of disappointment. 12 Welles intro- 
duced the naval officer to the President and Cabinet, and to 
them Alden repeated his story "with emotion which he could 
not entirely suppress/' Commodore McCauley had refused to 
let him take out the Merrimack, which was at the wharf, all 
ready to go. Remarks of some of the younger officers at the 
yard had left no doubt in Alden's mind that they had control 


of the Commodore. The old man "seemed stupified, be- 
wildered, and wholly unable to act/' 13 

Lincoln and Welles once again approached General Scott. 
The general-in-chief reiterated his opposition to sending 
troops to Norfolk, but at the President's insistence agreed to 
send on temporary loan a battalion of Massachusetts militia 
that had newly arrived at Fortress Monroe. To this force 
Welles added one hundred marines from Washington. 

Commodore Hiram Paulding was sent with these forces 
to relieve McCauley of responsibility for "all the naval forces 
then afloat" and to see that no arms and munitions fell into 
the hands of the insurrectionists. If necessary, Paulding was 
to destroy the navy yard and ships. 

Paulding's expedition took two days to organize and get to 
Norfolk. At the Washington Navy Yard, Commander Dahl- 
gren, the gunnery expert, loaded on board Paulding's ship 
4.0 barrels of gunpowder, 1 1 tanks of turpentine, 1 2 barrels of 
cotton waste, and 181 portfires. 

Commodore Paulding embarked from Washington the 
evening of Friday the nineteenth. In addition to one hundred 
marines, he carried with him on the Pawnee a number of 
officers from the Washington area who had been assigned to 
assist him, including Captain Charles Wilkes, the Antarctic 
explorer, and Commanders B. F. Sands, James Alden, and 
John Rodgers. To supervise the highly specialized task of 
blowing up the dry dock, should that be found necessary, 
Paulding had two experts: Captain H. G. Wright, of the 
U. S. Army Engineers, and Lieutenant Henry A. Wise, of the 
Navy's Bureau of Ordnance. 

The Pawnee rounded to off Fortress Monroe at 2:30 P.M. 
on Saturday, April 20. During the afternoon Colonel David 
W. Wardrop's battalion of Massachusetts militia was taken 
on board. These 349 fresh recruits were armed with old- 
fashioned muskets. As yet undrilled in arms, they were of 
doubtful value for any military use except heaving powder 
barrels on shore. At 6:45 P.M. the Pawnee, with its additional 
passengers, set out on the final eighteen-mile lap across Hamp- 

Loss of the Norfolk Navy Yard 37 

ton Roads and up the Elizabeth River to the navy yard. They 
proceeded slowly and were able to steam around the sunken 
lightboats. As they passed Norfolk, a crowd on the dock sent 
up a shout in which were mingled both jeers and welcome. 
The sailing sloop Cumberland in midstream cheered from 
their shrouds and the station ship Pennsylvania, berthed in 
the mud along the sea wall, shouted "with a hurricane of 
heartiness/' 14: 

Confusion at the navy yard had increased and the "atmos- 
phere of treason 1 ' had thickened. Nine hundred workmen, 
the entire force, had quit their jobs. Such prowlers as ven- 
tured into the yard were suspected of pilfering government 
arms for use in their militia companies. On the night of the 
nineteenth the Virginia state militia under General Talia- 
ferro seized the navy's powder magazine at Fort Norfolk. 
Impressing all the horses and carts in the area, they trans- 
ferred thirteen hundred barrels of powder to lighters and 
other vessels to be sent up the James River to Richmond, and 
the remaining fifteen hundred barrels they carried inland 
beyond range of guns on shipboard. 

On the nineteenth the Secessionist surveyor for the Port of 
Norfolk with about fifty armed men was foiled in his effort to 
seize the government tug Yankee by the sixty marines of this 
yard. In Norfolk, trainloads of troops arrived from Richmond 
and Petersburg. Lieutenant Colonel James Edelin, in charge 
of the marines, hired a spy to keep him posted on the number 
of troops in Norfolk, and according to that informant some 
five thousand had come in before April 20, At St. Helena, a 
pine-wooded village across the river from the navy yard, it 
was rumored that Confederate General Taliaferro's militia 
had mounted batteries that commanded the navy yard itself. 
Commodore Pendergrast's lookout at the masthead of the 
Cumberland was unable to see any of these rumored bat- 
teries, but since there were trees to mask them he could not 
be certain. Commodore Pendergrast, who lived In Norfolk 
and had gone home every night while his ship was at the 
navy yard, had witnessed a good deal of parading by militia 


companies. He had not himself seen the rumored three to 
five thousand troops that worried Commodore McCauley. 
McCauley was his senior. Pendergrast assumed that McCauley 
had sources of information not available to himself. 

A few days previous McCauley had ordered the Merrimack 
under the shears to hoist her guns on board, but he had 
countermanded this order "upon the representation of cer- 
tain parties that such a proceeding would certainly bring on 
a collision with the people outside of the yard/' 15 So nothing 
had been done. The Merrimack' $ broadside guns continued 
to lie on shore in the gunparks, along with the obsolete 
armaments of the hulks that were anchored in midstream. 

Then, just a few hours before Paulding's arrival, dodder- 
ing Commodore McCauley, stricken by panic, ordered his 
seamen and marines to spike the guns on the yard and to 
scuttle the Merrimack and the other ships. 

At 8:00 P.M. the Pawnee made fast alongside the navy yard 
wharf to the northward of the first ship house. Commodore 
Paulding, hearing of conditions on shore, sent his marines 
to hold the gates of the navy yard and Lieutenant Wise, with 
an emergency crew, to try to stop the scuttled Merrimack 
from sinking. Wise entered the foundering ship, which had 
been moored near by, made his way down to her lower decks, 
and dropped a block into her water-filled hold. Judging by 
the sound of the splash, the water was now over the vessel's 
orlop deck. Wise reported that it was too late to save her 
unless they could send down a diver to plug the hole. There 
was no diver available. 

Commodore McCauley and Commodore Pendergrast came 
on board the Pawnee. McCauley, learning the substance of 
Paulding's orders, considered himself as having been super- 
seded, turned everything over to Paulding, and returned to 
his quarters. 

After McCauley left the wharf, Paulding inquired of 
Pendergrast why the ships had been scuttled, and Pendergrast 
attributed it to apprehension that otherwise the people sur- 
rounding the yard would obtain possession of it. He told of 

Loss of the Norfolk Navy Yard gg 

the rumor that batteries overlooking the yard had been 
erected at St. Helena and of the growing number of Seces- 
sionists that were collecting under Confederate General 

It was now possible for Paulding with a thousand men 
under his control to seize and hold the navy yard. With the 
broadsides of the Pawnee and the Cumberland, he could 
demolish Norfolk and Portsmouth. Such became an accept- 
able practice a year later when Farragut bombarded the river 
town of Donaldsonville, Louisiana, in retaliation for the 
firing of guerrillas upon his ships. But on the night of April 
20, 1861, the shooting war was only in its second week. 
Paulding, like his predecessor, took alarm, giving credit to 
wild rumors "of people then assembling in great numbers to 
take the yard." With the ships that he had come to save 
already scuttled and sinking, Paulding found the task of sav- 
ing them immeasurably magnified, in fact, impossible. He 
also considered his mission to be a special and temporary 
one. He was unduly impressed with the fact that the troops 
loaned by the Army were to be with him only temporarily, 
and he felt that the Pawnee, too, should return at the earliest 
moment for the possible defense of threatened Washington. 
In other words Paulding carried out his Norfolk mission 
with one eye upon Washington. 

At 9:00 P.M. he decided to destroy what was left of the 
Norfolk Navy Yard. 

A hundred sailors from the Cumberland were detailed to 
further disable the spiked cannon by pounding off their 
trunnions. A few blows of a hammer shattered like glass the 
side projections of old cannon, but not so in the case of the 
late-model Dahlgren guns. Upon these best naval guns one 
hundred men hammered for an hour with eighteen-pound 
sledges without breaking a single trunnion. 

Lieutenant Wise, an ordnance expert who had been 
brought to Norfolk to demolish the dry dock, was ordered 
instead to lay powder trains and set fire to the ships. "I had 
a boat manned from the 'Pawnee/ " reads Wise's narrative 


of this night's doings, "and put in her a number of powder 
tanks filled with spirits of turpentine and cotton waste. When 
the boat was ready I reported to Commodore Paulding, who 
called me down into the cabin of the Tawnee' and gave me 
the names of the ships I was to set fire to, which I took down 
in pencil on a slip of paper. I then shoved off and came along- 
side the 'Merrimack;' went on board with an officer and some 
of the boat's crew, and got together combustible material, 
such as cordage, rope, ladders and gratings, hawsers, etc., and 
laid them in the form of the letter V, before her mainmast to 
one of the offshore gun-deck ports. On the top of this were 
laid ropes of cotton waste saturated in turpentine. I then 
flooded the decks, fore and aft, and the beams likewise, with 
the same liquid, leaving the ends of the waste ropes outside 
the port. While this was going on the officer whom I had 
placed on the lookout reported to me that a large crowd of 
men were about to make a rush and fire into the boat we 
went to the 'Merrimack' with. When the work was all done 
we shoved off, and pulled up to the vessels lying alongside the 
yard, and laid trains on them in the same way/' 16 

Captain Wilkes and Commanders Sands and Alden were 
sent to lay powder trains to the marine barracks, ship houses, 
and other shore installations, while the mining of the dry 
dock was put in charge of Commander Rodgers and Captain 
Wright, of the Engineers. A Federal party of forty Massa- 
chusetts volunteers placed a two-thousand-pound mine inside 
a pumping gallery running back of one of the massive granite 
sidewalls of the dry dock. The night was dark, their time 
short, and the fact that there was two feet of water inside this 
gallery made it necessary for them to forage for scaffolding 
materials to secure above water the mine and its powder 
train to the outside. 

While these varied preparations were going forward, Gen- 
eral Taliaferro, commanding the military forces of Virginia, 
sent a message to Commodore Paulding under a flag of truce 
to offer a bargain compromise. To save the letting of blood, 
the Secessionist general offered to permit the Cumberland 

Loss of the Norfolk Navy Yard 41 

to leave port unmolested If the Federal commodore would 
discontinue destruction of public property in the yardl To 
this overture Paulding returned the threat "that any act of 
violence on their part would devolve upon them the conse- 
quences/' 17 

About 2:00 A.M. the marine barracks prematurely burst 
into flames, which lighted up the yard and caused so much 
confusion among the Federal wreckers that preparations for 
burning certain important machine shops were omitted. 
While the troops and marines were re-embarking, the young- 
est son of Commodore McCauley, tears running down his 
cheeks, reported to Commodore Paulding that his father re- 
fused to leave his post. Commander Alden was sent to explain 
to the old man that the rest of the buildings were to be fired 
and that his life must be lost if he did not yield. This last 
effort succeeded and with the wretched McCauley safe on 
board Paulding shoved oft. 

The steamer Pawnee and the tug Yankee took in tow the 
sailing sloop Cumberland, flagship o Commodore Fender- 
grast's Home Squadron, and proceeded down the river. When 
the ships were beyond danger, a rocket from the Pawnee gave 
the signal to set fire to all powder trains. Captain Wilkes's 
small boats picked up the men who fired the buildings. "The 
station I had chosen for the boat/' reads Wilkes's account, 
"was just ahead of the Germantown and at the end of the 
eastern ship-house. The Merrimack lay close astern of the 
Germantown and the fire soon reached her rigging and spars. 
In a few minutes Commander Alden and his men and Com- 
mander Sands and his two men joined me. The flames were 
making rapid progress, and all attention was turned toward 
the direction [of the dry dock] from whence Commander 
Rogers and Captain Wright were to come. The conflagra- 
tion was rapid, in vast sheets of flame, and dense smoke, 
which enveloped us from the Merrimack, soon made it evi- 
dent that it would be impossible for anyone to pass through 

it It was a painful anxiety to see every moment the 

chances of their escape diminishing. Our own safety was not 


thought of until all hope or chance of their joining us were 
at an end. Then, and with great reluctance, I gave the order 
to shove off." 18 

A reporter for the New York Times, who viewed the scene 
from the Pawnee, wrote that the conflagration burst like the 
day of judgment upon the startled citizens of Norfolk and 
Portsmouth. "Any one who has seen a ship burn, and knows 
how like a fiery serpent the flame leaps from pitchy deck to 
smoking shrouds, and writhes to their very top, around the 
masts that stood like martyrs doomed, can form some idea of 
the wonderful display that followed. It was not 30 minutes 
from the time the trains were fired till the conflagration 
roared like a hurricane, and the flames from land and water 
swayed, and met and mingled together, and darted high, and 
fell, and leaped again, and by their very motion showed their 
sympathy with the crackling, crashing roar of destruction 
beneath." * 9 

Wilkes's small boats caught up with the Pawnee at Craney 
Island below Norfolk. Commander Rodgers and Captain 
Wright, marooned by the inferno, were taken prisoners by 
General Taliaferro's militia who swarmed into the yard. 
They were billeted in Norfolk's best hotel and later sent to 
Richmond, where they were courteously treated by the Gov- 
ernor and returned under Confederate military escort to 
Washington to prevent their being abused by angered 

The dry dock's mine did not explode. Whether its fuse 
was defective, whether it was stamped out by a Virginia 
militiaman, or whether water sufficient to flood the gallery 
was let in by the newly resigned Lieutenant C. F. M. Spotts- 
wood, as one rumor reported, is not known. 

The Merrimack burned down only through her upper 
decks. Her sunken hull and machinery were left intact. The 
marine barracks and the ship houses were totally destroyed. 
But the true measure of Commodore Paulding's panic is 
the fact that the following essential shore installations were 
left unsinged: the dry dock, the ordnance building, the 

Loss of the Norfolk Navy Yard 43 

smiths' shops and sheds, carpenters' shops and sheds, timber 
sheds, boiler shops, foundries, all the machine shops, the saw- 
mill, spar house, provision house, and all the dwellings. 

"At that particular juncture of affairs no greater calamity 
could have happened to the cause of the Union than the loss 
of their important station." So concluded the Congressional 
Committee of Investigation. "Not only was the pecuniary 
loss to us very considerable, but the acquisition to the enemy 
was of incalculable value, in putting into their hands a fine 
yard and harbor wherein to build, arm, equip, and iron- 
sheath their ships-of-war to be used against the government, 
and great numbers of ordnance of the heaviest calibre for 
their coast and inland fortifications/' 20 

The Cumberland grounded on one of the lightboats sunk 
in the lower reaches of Elizabeth River. Paulding pushed on 
in the Pawnee to Fortress Monroe, where he found the 
steamer Keystone State, just in from Philadelphia, bearing a 
crew for the Merrimack! The Keystone State helped to pull 
the Cumberland through to deep water in Hampton Roads. 
In the Pawnee Paulding now stood up the Potomac to Wash- 
ington in defiance of rumored Confederate batteries at 
Alexandria. They passed Alexandria with the crew at general 
quarters, but discovered no enemy batteries. Near Washing- 
ton they ran aground on a shoal and were pulled off by a 
tugboat. The Pawnee reached the Washington Navy Yard on 
April 23, two days after leaving behind her the holocaust at 


Gideon Welles Forms a Plan 

week in April, all news was bad. The arsenal at Harper's 
Ferry was blown up and burned by its small Federal garrison, 
and there were rumors that, when Maryland seceded, Wash- 
ington would be isolated and captured. The chain bridge west 
of Washington was jammed by Southerners fleeing the Federal 
capital. Many Northerners, too, left the city, taking the 
western rail route via Wheeling rather than attempting to 
escape through Secession-hot Baltimore. The Sixth Massa- 
chusetts, the first militia regiment to rush to the defense of 
Washington, was mobbed in Baltimore by plug-uglies and 
"blood tubs" when they marched across the city from the 
President Station to the Camden Station. Irate Baltimoreans 
now cut Washington's telegraph wires and burned sections 
of bridges on railroads leading north. For four days Washing- 
ton's telegraphic communications were broken. 

Lincoln's call on April 15 for seventy-five thousand volun- 
teers to serve for three months brought forth Jefferson Davis's 
retaliatory proclamation of the seventeenth, offering letters 
of marque to mariners who wished to prey upon Yankee com- 
merce. Lincoln parried by branding such letters of marque 
as pirates and proclaiming a formal naval blockade of the 
Southern coast. 

There were two of these blockade proclamations. That of 
the nineteenth applied to the coast line from South Carolina 
through Texas, while the supplementary proclamation issued 


Gideon Welles Forms a Plan 45 

on the twenty-seventh, following the secessions of Virginia 
and North Carolina, extended the blockade from South Caro- 
lina up the Potomac shore opposite Washington itself. All 
vessels willfully seeking to violate the blockade were de- 
clared subject to seizure and condemnation as naval prize. 
All persons who, under the "pretended authority" of the 
seceded states, molested United States commerce were de- 
clared pirates and held amenable to laws "for the prevention 
and punishment of piracy." * The Southern coast line thus 
brought under formal naval blockade was 3,549 statute miles 
in length and included 180 harbors and navigable inlets. At 
the time this giant undertaking was officially ordered, Mr. 
Lincoln's Navy contained a total of only forty-two vessels in 

On Sunday, April 21, the day the Norfolk yard was de- 
stroyed, the Cabinet was in continuous session. The all- 
absorbing question was how the Federal Government might 
continue to function in case Maryland should secede. Mayor 
George W. Brown of Baltimore had been summoned and 
General Scott was present. Brown contended that the only 
way to prevent a collision was for the Federal Government not 
to route any more troops through Baltimore. Lincoln urged 
the "irresistible necessity" of such a transit for troops to 
defend Washington. The protection of Washington was the 
sole military object, he insisted, not hostile action against 
Maryland. Unable to bring troops up the Potomac the river 
being closed by batteries at Alexandria the government 
must either transport them through Maryland or abandon the 

Lincoln turned to General Scott. The general pointed out 
that a compromise was possible. Troops might circle around 
Baltimore, either coming by water from Perryville to Annapo- 
lis or marching to the westward through Ellicott City and 
the Relay House. 

With that the Mayor seemed content. Later in the day, 
however, receiving a dispatch that troops from Pennsylvania 
were approaching through Cockeysville, a few miles north of 


Baltimore, he returned to the White House, angrily brandish- 
ing the newly received dispatch. Lincoln, unwilling to incur 
suspicion of bad faith in calling the mayor to Washington 
and allowing troops to march on the city during his absence, 
desired that these troops be sent back at once to York or 
Harrisburg. Scott, accordingly, arranged to have the troops 
rerouted via Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Perryville, and the 
bay steamer to Annapolis and over the Elk Ridge and An- 
napolis Railroad to Washington. 

Throughout these discussions, Gideon Welles became more 
and more alarmed. Whispering a few words to Seward and 
Chase and requesting the President to excuse him, he retired 
to the Navy Department, where he was soon joined by 
Seward and Chase. While messengers were summoning Com- 
modore Joseph Smith and Chief Clerk Berrien, Welles had 
a consultation in his office with the other Cabinet members. 
"There was entire unanimity in the conclusion that vigorous 
steps must be at once taken," reads Welles's diary, "and the 
powers of the government exercised and enforcedthat the 
rebellion must be stopped and suppressed without further 
temporizing with men, or mobs, or organized insurrection 
against the government. 

"Washington was . . . severed from the Northern States, 
without mail facilities or telegraphic intercourse; and the 
administration was thwarted by the insurgents whom the 
Mayor said he could not, and evidently did not wish to con- 
trol in that respect. The troops which were on their way to 
the Capital were stopped and denied approach these troops 
were, as yet unorganized, and undisciplinedwithout com- 
manders, and many without arms the few naval vessels on 
the Atlantic coast that were available had been sent to 
Charleston [and Pensacola], and when they returned would 
be wholly inadequate for the immediate and indispensable 
wants of the government. 

"I had been told by the President after the Proclamation 
[of the Blockade] was issued, that I must take such means as 
might seem to me necessary in the emergency to maintain the 

Gideon Welles Forms a Plan 47 

national authority, and that he would share with me or take 
upon himself the responsibility of such orders as I in my 

discretion, should issue When therefore, the Cabinet 

officers whom I have named were assembled on that Sunday 
morning in the Navy Department, I stated the necessity of 
chartering or purchasing without delay vessels for the naval 
serviceto close the rebel ports, and assert national suprem- 
acy. All concurred in my proposition." 2 

Emergency orders were drafted to the commandants of navy 
yards at New York, Philadelphia, and Boston to charter or 
purchase at once twenty steamers capable of mounting naval 
cannon to be used to convoy troops and supplies to the na- 
tional capital and to keep open the sea route via the Virginia 
capes and the Potomac River. Horatio Bridge, Chief of the 
Bureau of Provisions and Clothing, who carried these dis- 
patches, was sent westward through Wheeling in order to 
bypass Baltimore. 

In addition to the emergency conversion of merchant 
steamers, Gideon Welles did not hesitate to share his own 
powers as Secretary of the Navy with others and to employ 
unusual methods to save money in government purchasing. 
If, in the future, the telegraph lines to Washington should be 
cut as they were at present, the commandants of the Northern 
navy yards were authorized to consult with the following 
lawyers and merchants of New York City: Governor E. D. 
Morgan, William Evarts, George D. Morgan, R. M. Blatch- 
ford, and Moses Grinnell. These men were "empowered to 
act for the Secretary of the Navy in matters pertaining to 
forwarding men and supplies" to Washington. 

Captain Samuel L. Breese, commandant of the New York 
Navy Yard, with advice from the "proxies" of the Secretary 
of the Navy, fitted out merchant steamers to serve as naval 
convoys. William H. Aspinwall, steamship executive, bought 
the steamer Yankee and put it at Breese's disposal. Breese 
gave a temporary commission as acting lieutenant to Gustavus 
V. Fox, newly returned from Fort Sumter, and Fox took the 
steamer to Annapolis in time to aid with the opening of the 


route to Washington through Perryville and Annapolis. 
Captain Samuel F. Du Pont, a popular member of the family 
of powder manufacturers, who was commandant of the Phila- 
delphia Navy Yard, obtained extraordinary aid from S. M. 
Felton, president of the Baltimore 8c Philadelphia Railroad. 
Felton gave Du Pont and General B. F. Butler of Massachu- 
setts the right to seize and mount howitzers upon the rail- 
road's ferryboat at Perryville. 

Within a few weeks the route down Chesapeake Bay avoid- 
ing Baltimore was secure. General Butler stamped out 
Secession activity along the right of way of the railroad to 
Washington and made Secession impossible in Maryland by 
seizing Baltimore. 

Throughout the summer of 1861, the Navy Department 
advocated landing troops on the south bank of the Potomac 
to hold the major promontories, and thus prevent the Con- 
federates from mounting batteries there to interdict com- 
merce. But the War Department moved by General Scott's 
phobia that small isolated garrisons would inevitably be 
captureddeclined to risk their troops in that manner. An- 
napolis, therefore, became the port of Washington. Midship- 
men of the Naval Academy minus Southerners who resigned 
were embarked upon the schoolship Constitution, "Old 
Ironsides" of 1812 fame, and sent to wartime quarters at 
Newport, Rhode Island. The Navy developed a sort of flying 
squadron for Chesapeake Bay to protect the highways to 
Washington, the one via Perryville at the head of the bay, 
the other around by sea and north from the Virginia capes. 

Naval officers from Maryland and Virginia, hitherto waver- 
ing in their allegiance, now felt compelled to make their 
decisions. Captain Raphael Semmes of Baltimore resigned to 
become in the Confederate States Navy the most famed of the 
Civil War's commerce raiders. In the belief that his native 
Maryland would secede, Captain Franklin Buchanan, the 
popular and influential commandant of the Washington 
Navy Yard, brought his commission to Mr. Welles "and with 
studied pathos and manner, and feelings not unaffected, laid 

National Archives 

The Honorable Gideon Welles 

Library of Congress 

President Abraham Lincoln 


National Archives 

Gustavus V. Fox, 
Assistant Secretary of the Navy 

American naval officer 

going into action- 
new style invented by 
Com rnodo re Fa rragu I 

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 

Library of Congress 

Rear Admiral Samuel Francis 
Du Pont 

National Archives 

Commodore Andrew H. Foote 

Library of Congress 

Admiral David D. Porter 

Na I Jovial A rcJi h >e 

Admiral David G. Farragul 

Official U.S. Navy Photograph 

Commodore Charles Wilkes 

Official U.S. Navy Photograph 

Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren 

Official U.S. Naw Photograph 

The Battle of Hampton Roads, March, /<SY>2 

Official U.S. AVwy 

U.S.S. Black Hawk 

Official V.S. Navy Photograph 

U.S.S. Hartford stripped for battle 

Official U.S. Navy Photograph 

The Battle, of Mobile Bay 

NaliotuiJ Archives 

Libra) y of Congress 

(upper) Admiral John A. Dahlgren and group 
(lower) Admiral David D. Porter and officers on board the U.S.S, Malvern 

Official U.S. Navy Photograph 

Official U.S. Navy Photograph 

(upper) New Orleans, Farragut's fleet 
(lower) Crew of the U.S.S. Monitor 

Courtesy of the White House 

"The Peacemakers'' by G.P.A. Healy 


Gideon Welles Forms a Plan 49 

it with emotion and tears" upon the Secretary's table. "It 
was/' he said, "tearing out his heart-strings, parting with 
what was dear as life to him/' Welles asked him "if he had 
spent his years in the service of the State of Maryland or of 
the United States government had he been employed and 
drawn pay from the treasury of the former or the latter had 
his honors from boyhood to age been derived from the state 
or the nation?" 3 Buchanan affirmed that his first duty was to 
his immediate government, the state. Welles advised him to 
think it over a few weeks, especially since Maryland had not 
actually seceded, but Buchanan insisted that his mind was 
made up. In just a fortnight he was back again, asking leave 
to recall his commission and resume his duties as comman- 
dant of the yard. But Welles had already turned over the navy 
yard to a younger officer, Commander John A. Dahlgren, and 
had begun to feel that any officer of Buchanan's age, standing, 
and intelligence who in such a crisis might "falter, be faith- 
less fe doubt his flag" could never again be trusted. Buchanan, 
thus rebuffed, went South to become commander of the 
famous Merrimack ironclad. The crippled Commander M. F. 
Maury, Superintendent of the Naval Observatory, and Cap- 
tain George Magruder, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, 
both Virginians, spent an agonized afternoon with Mr. Welles 
but gave no indication of intent to resign. That evening, 
however, Maury deposited his keys on Magruder's doorstep 
and decamped with his family into Virginia, and a few days 
later Magruder tendered his own resignation. Welles refused 
to accept the resignations of these officers but dismissed them 
from the service. All told, 259 naval officers resigned or were 

To find replacements for the officers who went South, as 
well as to procure new officers for an expanding service, be- 
came one of Welles's worst problems. Fifteen ex-officers of 
the Navy who had resigned in peaceful times were welcomed 
back to active duty. Although Welles could not legally re- 
store them to their former positions in the line of promotion, 
he gave them temporary commissions as acting lieutenants 


and a promise that Congress would be approached in their 
behalf. From the commercial marine he obtained 25 acting 
volunteer lieutenants, and by December of 1861, when he 
made his first annual report, he had appointed from the 
merchant service 433 acting masters and 209 master's mates. 
Replacements for paymasters and engineers were also ob- 
tained from the merchant marine. An aggregate o 993 acting 
appointments were made during the first year. 4 These officers, 
selected by examination, met high standards. Those later 
found * 'addicted to intemperance" or otherwise unsuited had 
their appointments promptly revoked. 

After several weeks of service in the steamer Yankee on the 
Chesapeake Bay, Gustavus Fox, through his kinsman Post- 
master General Blair, let it be known that the diversion of 
the Powhatan to Fort Pickens had made his expedition to 
Fort Sumter look ridiculous. Lincoln wrote Fox a letter of 
consolation, assuming blame for his own remissness in the 
matter. ''I most cheerfully and truly declare that the failure 
of the undertaking has not lowered you a particle, while the 
qualities you developed in the effort have greatly heightened 
you in my estimation. For a daring and dangerous enterprise, 
of a similar character you would today be the man, of all my 
acquaintances, whom I would select." Lincoln offered Fox a 
ship in the Navy and a volunteer officer's commission, but 
Blair advised that Fox take a post in the Navy Department 
itself, "as the naval war will be only one of blockade/' 5 To 
this latter proposition Fox assented. Lincoln shifted the 
incumbent chief clerk to another position and on May 8 
Secretary Welles appointed Fox to the vacancy. After Con- 
gress met in July, the new post of Assistant Secretary of the 
Navy, carrying the pay of a navy captain on sea duty, was 
created for Fox. 

Fox's appointment infused new blood and a dynamic spirit 
into Lincoln's Navy Department. After eighteen years in the 
Navy, Fox had resigned in 1856 because of moribund condi- 
tions and stagnation of promotion. An ardent advocate of a 
new steam-driven Navy, he himself had had unusual experi- 

Gideon Welles Forms a Plan 51 

ence in command of mail steamers. While out of the Navy 
from 1856 to 1861, he had learned something about business 
as an executive of a textile mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts. 
Fox was as honest, forthright, and daring as Gideon Welles, 
but without the latter's reticence. Whereas the latter was 
given to secret speculation, and silent and even crafty analyses 
of the men who served under him in the Navy, Fox was open, 
hearty, jovial, ready at all times to let anyone fill his ear with 
gossip so long as he had patriotic intent and a genuine desire 
to get the job done. Fox was the ideal liaison officer, able to 
approach congressmen, officials in other departments, ship- 
owners, manufacturers, whoever might have business with 
the Navy. 6 And, speaking the language of naval officers, he 
was at his best in obtaining their confidence. He was their 
friend at court, and they in turn all types of naval officers- 
made him their confidant, told him their joys, sorrows, prob- 
lems, difficulties. He was as gay, as bighearted and generous, 
as Mr. Welles was tightfisted and secretive. The two of them 
got on perfectly together, the one sitting quietly at the helm 
holding a steady course, the effervescent assistant forever 
darting here and yonder to seek out the best channel to steer 

From the start of the war it was clear that the prime con- 
cern of Lincoln's Navy would be to develop and maintain a 
tight blockade around the coast line of the Confederate states. 
The Confederacy bore no comparison to the Northern states 
in development of industry and could not match the North in 
naval construction. In all the South there were but a few small 
iron-working establishments, and no factory that could manu- 
facture marine engines. Southerners, therefore, were limited 
to the vessels they seized in their harbors at the outset of the 
war, steamboats on the Western rivers, and ships they could 
procure abroad. 

Once the war lines were drawn as they now were, how to 
proceed became Welles's first problem. What should be his 
general over-all plan? Prior to the firing upon Fort Sumter, 
no plans had been drafted for turning the nation's war 


machinery against the Southern states. At the outbreak of the 
war Lincoln's Navy Department knew a great deal about the 
geography of the coast of Mexico, scene of operations for the 
so-called Home Squadron. The western seaboard of Africa 
was familiar, for the United States maintained a squadron off 
Africa to enforce the antislave-trade treaty. The image of the 
Mediterranean, thanks to service in the Mediterranean Squad- 
ron, was etched on every American naval officer's mind. But 
the character of the coast line of the Southern states and its 
implications for the Federal blockade were imperfectly 

Welles appointed a fact-finding and strategy-forming board 
to study the littoral of the South Atlantic states. Capain S. F. 
Du Pont, who had helped to open the route to Washington, 
was called to the capital to head this board, and with him 
were associated Professor A. D. Bache, Superintendent of the 
U. S. Coast Survey, Major J. G. Barnard of the Corps of 
Engineers, U. S. Army, and Commander C. H. Davis, U. S. 
Navy. 7 

Meanwhile, Welles recalled ships from foreign stations and 
set up three squadrons, the Atlantic Blockading Squadron 
under Stringham, the Gulf Blockading Squadron under Mer- 
vine, and the Home Squadron in the West Indies under 
Pendergrast. The first two put into effect Mr. Lincoln's block- 
ade; the third answered the early hue and cry of New York 
insurance companies for protection of the California treasure 
ships from Confederate privateers and commerce raiders. 

To procure enough ships to cover the Southern coast, 
Welles, during the first nine months, repaired and recom- 
missioned from the old Navy 76, purchased 136, and con- 
structed 52, for a total of 264 ships, and during this time the 
number of seamen jumped from 7,600 to 22,000. "I have 
shrunk from no responsibilities," reads the Secretary's first 
report, "and if, in some instances the letter of the law has 
been transcended, it was because the public necessities re- 
quired it. To have declined the exercise of any powers but 

Gideon Welles Forms a Plan 53 

such as were clearly authorized and legally defined . . . would 
have been an inexcusable wrong and a cowardly omission." 8 
What troubled the Secretary's conscience was that he had 
given to a single agent the sole power to purchase ships for 
the Navy in New York, and that that agent, George D. 
Morgan, was Welles's brother-in-law. In the exercise of his 
extraordinary power, Morgan, a shrewd New York business 
man, was able, substantially, to beat down prices in a way that 
officers at the New York Navy Yard had never been able to do. 
Welles's situation was complicated because Senator John P. 
Hale of Maine tried to influence the department to purchase 
a vessel belonging to some of his friends, and because Welles 
had the temerity to decline it because her owners valued it 
much higher than he did. 9 The Senator, after badgering 
Welles at home and at his office, finally resorted to retaliatory 
"nuisance resolutions," investigating not only ship purchases 
by the Navy but the losses of the Norfolk and Pensacola Navy 
Yards. Newspaper sniping at "Grandfather" Welles, the "Rip 
Van Winkle of the Navy Department," suggests that the 
mercantile community of New York disparaged Secretary 
Welles's economy-mindedness; although a prominent and dis- 
interested shipowner of Boston came to the Secretary's 

The administration of Mr. Welles & Fox together has been a suc- 
cess and ... it would be a great misfortune to have them dis- 
turbed or disheartened by Congressional criticism! Especially so 
when you pitch into the best things they have done in going out 
of routine and trying to carry on as practical men would do it. 
You are beginning your reform at the wrong end when you cen- 
sure a thing that is well done, merely because it was not better 
done, and because it has an unlucky appearance of nepotism 
which gives a handle for popular complaint. 10 

Welles's board of strategy recommended division of the 
South Atlantic coast into two sections, the demarcation fall- 
ing approximately at the line between North and South 
Carolina, and proposed that separate blockading squadrons 
be formed to deal with the peculiar geographical characteris- 


tics of each section. In the northern sector it was impossible 
to blockade Richmond and Norfolk simply by stationing ships 
in the lower Chesapeake Bay, for Virginia's chief cities had 
backdoor entrances through Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds 
and the Dismal Swamp Canal. The narrow belts o sand 
which separate the inland sounds from the ocean are broken 
at irregular intervals by inlets through which the tides wash 
to and fro. Some of these inlets, the strategy board believed, 
might be blocked by sinking in them hulks laden with ballast. 
The southern sector, including South Carolina and Georgia, 
consisted largely of a succession of islands that present on the 
ocean side a moderately straight sea beach with sand hills and 
woods, the marshy inner edges of these islands outline a series 
of sounds and harbors that provided good inland channels for 
vessels of shallow draft. Somewhere near the southern end of 
the Atlantic coast the board recommended establishment of 
a coal and supply base a harbor of refuge within which 
blockade ships might ride out a storm. 

Secretary Welles adopted the essential suggestions made by 
the strategy board. The Atlantic Squadron was divided into 
North and South Atlantic Blockading Squadrons. 

With the aid of the Army, an amphibian expedition was 
launched in late July against the Confederate forts at Hat- 
teras Inlet, Major General Benjamin F. Butler, the Massa- 
chusetts political general who had seized Annapolis and 
opened the railroad to Washington, led the troops and Flag 
Officer Stringham, within whose province the target lay, 
commanded the naval forces. Hatteras Inlet, just under the 
cape, was a newly washed-out inlet, so new in fact that it did 
not appear on the Coast Survey maps used by the strategy 
board. Although the original plan had been to destroy the 
Confederate forts and plug the entrance with block ships, 
Stringham and Butler, when they saw the harbor, decided 
that it would be best to fortify it and use it as a blockade base. 

The South Atlantic Blockading Squadron in November 
launched a more ambitious combined army and navy assault 
against Port Royal, midway between Charleston and Savan- 

Gideon Welles Forms a Plan 55 

nah, the forces in this case being led by General Thomas W. 
Sherman and Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont. Port Royal 
Sound, with its ample anchorage and adequate acreage of 
protected sea islands, was later developed into the most exten- 
sive Atlantic base south of Hampton Roads. 

Obtaining from the special session of Congress that met on 
July 4 an appropriation to build ironclad warships, Welles 
appointed a board to consider this new type of vessel. Com- 
modores Joseph Smith and Hiram Paulding, and Commander 
C. H. Davis investigated the use of ironclad batteries in the 
Crimean War and studied the records of the Stevens battery 
of Philadelphia an iron-sheathed vessel into which a dis- 
couraged Congress over a period of years had sunk over half 
a million dollars. Present urgency in the matter of ironclads 
grew out of the fact that the Confederates had raised the 
sunken hull of the Merrimack and were rebuilding her as an 
ironclad ram to break through the Federal blockade. 

In the early months of the war Lincoln's Navy weathered 
defection of personnel and disastrous losses of navy yards. 
From only four ships available in home ports at the outset, 
the Navy had been built up to a substantial blockading force 
of 264 ships. In the chaos of early reverses, long before there 
were ships available to make it effective, Lincoln had pro- 
claimed the blockade. He had marked the course for the 
Navy. Secretary Gideon Welles, by feeling his way at first 
and by assuming the extraordinary emergency powers of the 
executive, had gradually conceived the main lines of action 
which the Navy would attempt to follow through the war. 

These lines, as he stated them in his Annual Report for 
1861, were as follows: 

i. The closing of all the insurgent ports along a coast of nearly 
three thousand miles, in the form and under the exacting regula- 
tions of an international blockade, including the naval occupa- 
tion and defense of the Potomac river, from its mouth to the 
federal capital, as the boundary line between Maryland and Vir- 
ginia, and also the main commercial avenue to the principal base 
of our military operations. 


2. The organization of combined naval and military expedi- 
tions to operate in force against various points of the southern 
coast, rendering efficient naval cooperation with the position and 
movements of such expeditions when landed, and including also 
all needful naval aid to the army in cutting intercommunica- 
tion with the rebels and in its operations on the Mississippi and 
its tributaries; and 

3. The active pursuit of the piratical cruisers which might 
escape the vigilance of the blockading force and put to sea from 
the rebel ports. 11 


Beginning the Blockade 

blockade in April of 1861 was to be lenient toward the 
enemy, and both considerate and generous toward foreign 
powers whose commercial interests were affected. Above all 
considerations he wished by firm police tactics to persuade the 
"deluded people" to forget their Secession heresy and return 
to the Union, and to speed that return he sought to avoid 
foreign interference. 

Lincoln might have made the task easier for his naval 
watchdogs had he simply closed the ports of the insurrection- 
ary states. In this case all violators would have been subject to 
capture, like the breakers of any other domestic law. Instead, 
Lincoln, in effect, conceded belligerent rights to the Con- 
federacy and neutral rights to foreigners by proclaiming a 
formal "blockade" to be enforced according to the cumber- 
some rules of international law. Under the system as Lincoln 
set it up, the blockade of a particular Confederate port could 
not be established until a naval force had been posted off that 
port which would be able to prevent the entrance and exit of 
vessels. The commander of the blockade craft upon arrival 
would have to notify the authorities on shore that a blockade 
had been established and to allow foreign vessels already in 
the port fifteen days in which to put to sea. After this period 
of grace the port would be closed, and all outgoing vessels 
would be captured. When a neutral or foreign vessel appeared 
which had not been warned of the existence of the blockade. 



this notification had to be inserted in writing on the muster 
roll of the vessel by the blockade officer, together with the date 
and the latitude. A vessel so warned would later be subject to 
capture if caught attempting to run the blockade. 1 

Thus, the blockade would have to be established piece- 
meal, one part at a time as naval ships were built, purchased, 
and converted, or drawn in from foreign stations. It would 
be several months before the major ports were formally 
blockaded and years before such important ports as Mobile 
and Wilmington were completely closed to blockade-runners. 

To patrol the Potomac and prevent Virginians from cap- 
turing the national capital, the authorities at the Washington 
Navy Yard had early impressed into service four river steamers 
belonging to the Acquia Creek Line. To these were added 
the Hudson River side-wheeler Free born, and two second- 
class navy sloops, the Pawnee and the Pocahontas. This motley 
group, euphemistically entitled the Potomac Flotilla, wrestled 
with the difficult sector from Washington down to lower 
Chesapeake Bay. 

Under its first leader, Commander James H. Ward, the 
Potomac Flotilla replaced the channel markers that had been 
removed by Virginians, and seized canoes, oyster boats, and 
other bay and river craft that tried to run supplies across the 
river from Maryland to Virginia. The river had to be pa- 
trolled daily from Washington to its mouth to prevent the 
enemy from erecting batteries on the wooded Virginia prom- 
ontories and to convoy transports and supply vessels to 

On May 24 the flotilla assisted the Army in its landings on 
the Virginia shore from Washington down through Alex- 
andria. When the Confederates erected a series of batteries 
at Acquia Creek, Commander Ward engaged them with the 
two thirty-two-pounder guns of his flagship, the Freeborn. 
Next day he brought the Pawnee to assist the Freeborn. As 
the ships remained outside the range of the shore batteries, 
they were not hit. (It was sound naval doctrine in the early 
summer of 1861 that ships were no match for land-based 

Beginning the Blockade go 

guns.) But neither did they inflict damage on the Confederate 

Discouraged over his inability to take his fragile steamers 
close enough to damage the enemy batteries, Ward a month 
later sent a party on shore at Mathias Point, some fifty-five 
miles below Washington, to erect a battery of his own. Un- 
fortunately, his work party were surprised and routed by 
Confederate riflemen. To cover their retreat, Ward brought 
the Freeborn so close inshore that he was himself killed by a 
musket ball. 2 All in the landing party got off to the ship, 
thanks to Seaman John Williams, who warned his men that 
they must all die at the thwarts sooner than leave a single 
man behind, and who, when the flagstaff of his boat was shot 
in two, although suffering from a gunshot wound in the thigh, 
seized the flag and brandished it defiantly. 

Much of the work of the Potomac Flotilla was performed 
at night by small boats rowing up and down the shores on 
picket duty. 3 During the daytime the ships ceaselessly sounded 
the channel to replace markers. Often in spite of every pre- 
caution they ran aground on bars and shoals. In hourly 
danger from batteries masked by undergrowth, their quarters 
uncomfortable, their prizes mere rowboats and small, worth- 
less river craft, the men of the flotilla led a more varied and 
interesting life than their fellow blockaders stationed down 
the Atlantic coast. Yet even on the river the blockade, like 
blockades everywhere, could be dull. "To all appearances 
everything seems to be deserted," wrote one flotilla captain; 
"nothing was to be seen on the river save now and then a 
fishing canoe, with one colored man in [it], who immediately 
on our approach retreated into shoal water. . . . The wheat 
crop is cut and stacked in the fields, and, judging from the 
number of stacks, I should pronounce the crop to have been 
very large. The corn crop looks well, and we saw a large 
number of cattle grazing on the banks of the river. Every- 
thing looked so peaceful that it was difficult to imagine that 
we are at war with the people of Virginia." 4 

Flag Officer Silas H. Stringham, commander of the Atlantic 


Blockading Squadron, was a curly-haired Yankee from Con- 
necticut with a V-shaped mouth and humorous twinkle in the 
eye. Unlike his friend Gideon Welles, also a native of Con- 
necticut, he was not thrifty but lavish in his yearning for 
more ships. He perhaps understood the facts of the situation 
better than the Secretary, for every few days he sent in an 
official request for more ships. Exclusive of the Potomac 
Flotilla, which was good only for use in the river and Chesa- 
peake Bay, he began his service with only fourteen vessels, 
and with these he was expected to maintain a strict blockade 
of some nine hundred to a thousand miles of coast from 
Hampton Roads to Key West. His insistent pleading for 
more vessels at a time when Welles had scraped the bottom 
of the barrel persuaded the Secretary that perhaps the block- 
ade really could not be made as strict as had been called for. 
"It is possible that some of the lighter craft may in thick 
weather and at night run the blockade," Welles wrote him, 
"but your great effort will be to prevent it." 5 Acknowledging 
the need for more ships for the giant task, Welles merged the 
four ships of Pendergrast's Home Squadron, with Stringham's, 
The extra reward or inducement for the Civil War soldier 
was the bounty money he collected when he enlisted. While 
the sailor received no bounty, he did look forward to naval 
prize money, the amount of which would be determined 
partly by luck, but also to some extent by his own alertness 
and exertion in sighting and capturing violators of the block- 
ade. At Hampton Roads dozens of prizes fell to the happy 
blockaders during the first months of the blockade. Trades- 
men of Richmond and Baltimore, blindly refusing to accept 
the reality of war, sought to continue their normal peacetime 
traffic. The blockaders captured all such "enemy" craft, con- 
fiscated for their own, or for Army, use coal, hay, and other 
commodities, and sent prize vessels laden with tobacco and 
lumber to the admiralty courts in Philadelphia and New 
York. Strong objections were raised in Maryland, where such 
knotty questions could not appear so simple as at Hampton 
Roads, and Secretary Welles was induced to release some of 

Beginning the Blockade 61 

the bonanza of prize vessels to their "loyal" owners. String- 
ham's vigorous protest against surrendering prizes that had 
sailed with Secession state clearances was met by Welles's 
bland rejoinder: "There will doubtless be many cases involv- 
ing new questions that you may find it difficult to decide, but 
the courts of admiralty must dispose of them/' 6 

Catching smugglers was like swatting mosquitoes in the 
lower bay. Schooners would load in Baltimore and clear for 
Deal's Island or Snow Hill in Maryland, wait for a suitable 
night, and then cross to York River and discharge in Mobjack 
Bay. William Bayne, a Baltimore tobacconist, made many 
fraternal visits to a brother in Westmoreland County, Vir- 
ginia, until the blockaders discovered that letters and im- 
portant papers were being hidden on the person of the young 
girl who invariably accompanied him. 

Apart from blockading operations, there were certain 
political chores to perform at Hampton Roads. Let a group 
of visiting senators remain too long at Fortress Monroe to 
catch the bay steamer back to Baltimore and the courteous 
Stringham would return them to Washington on the flagship 
of the Potomac Flotilla. Or let a group of Unionists in Nor- 
folk appeal to President Lincoln for transportation north, and 
Stringham would assign one of his most efficient side-wheelers, 
the Keystone State, to negotiate under flag of truce with the 
Secessionist mayor and bring out 116 women and children. 
Only 35 of these refugees were content to be placed on board 
the Baltimore boat at Old Point Comfort; the other 81 
claimed and obtained a presidential favor of transportation 
all the way to New York Cityl 

Hampton Roads, the most commodious anchorage on the 
coast and the safest, since it lay under the protection of 
Fortress Monroe, was the sole base for the Atlantic Blockad- 
ing Squadron. Key West, though theoretically available, was 
too distant from important Atlantic coast points. Ships down 
the coast were continually returning to Hampton Roads for 
coal, water, and minor repairs. Whatever their purpose at 
Hampton Roads, their mere presence offered a continual 


temptation to political generals like Benjamin F. Butler to 
request naval assistance. After the blockaders had aided in 
transporting Butler's troops from Baltimore to Fortress 
Monroe, Butler requested that they cooperate with his troops 
in the seizure of Newport News and that later they make 
reconnaissances of various Confederate batteries that had 
been placed at the mouths of the James and Elizabeth Rivers. 
Gideon Welles had to remind the blockaders at Hampton 
Roads that their main task was to blockade. 

The most important point on the Atlantic blockade in the 
early months was Charleston. Apparently Lincoln hoped that 
to discourage "the cradle of Secession" would be to bring the 
war to a speedy close. As far as Lincoln's puritanical Secretary 
of the Navy was concerned, however, the blockade was to be 
made strict at Charleston as a matter of simple, eye-for-an-eye 

The plan of Lincoln's Navy Department was to post out- 
side of Charleston one large vessel for offshore cruising and 
two smaller and swifter craft to operate close in. During the 
early months only four large vessels were available: the 
Niagara^ the Minnesota, the Wabash, and the Roanoke. The 
day the Niagara departed for Charleston the Navy Depart- 
ment received intelligence of a shipment of arms from Europe 
to Mobile, and dispatched orders for the Niagara to proceed 
to the Gulf, Before she received these orders, however, she 
established the blockade off Charleston on May 10 and noti- 
fied eight vessels by officially endorsing their registers. One of 
these, the General Parkhill from Liverpool, which refused to 
leave the port after being warned off but edged in with signals 
flying in communication with the shore, was seized as prize 
and sent to Philadelphia. On the eleventh two armed steamers 
from Charleston came across the bar, accompanied by 
launches filled with men. Possibly mistaking the Niagara for 
a merchantman, they made a demonstration as if to attack 
her. Captain McKean maneuvered his large ship toward them, 
but before he could come within range they scurried back 
inside the harbor. McKean promptly dispatched to Washing- 

Beginning the Blockade 63 

ton the first of hundreds of admonitions that light-draft 
steamers were essential to enforce the blockade. 

After the Niagara's departure, the three remaining steam 
frigates took turns at sentinel duty off Charleston, usually 
with one or two small craft to assist them. It was particularly 
exasperating to Flag Officer Stringham that many of his 
lighter vessels, while they had speed, carried so little coal 
that they could not keep the sea, but had to spend a dispro- 
portionate time running to and from Hampton Roads to 
refuel. The need of a supply base near the southern end of 
the blockade coast became painfully apparent. 

Equally obvious was the need to blockade all of the second- 
ary inlets and harbors. Too often vessels warned off from 
Charleston simply ran up or down the coast to put in at 
Savannah, Bull's Bay, or Newbern or Wilmington, North 
Carolina. Stringham's sense of humor vanished under the 
exasperations of his many-faceted job. Daily from Washing- 
ton he received intelligence of foreign arms shipments com- 
ing to New Brunswick, the Bermudas, or Nassau to he trans- 
ferred to Southern vessels and run through the blockade, news 
of Confederate preparations to send out commerce raiders, 
frantic pleas from New York insurance companies to stop the 
activities of the Confederate privateers, Jefferson Davis, Dixie, 
and Savannah. At Hatteras Inlet, where the Confederates had 
removed navigation lights, vessels became stranded. Shallow- 
draft privateering craft from the sounds would now issue 
from the inlet to capture or plunder the distressed vessels. 
The Roanoke under Pendergrast, sighting Confederate bat- 
teries being erected at Hatteras Inlet, stood in at long range 
to draw their fire. This Confederate ''pirate's nest" had only 
a few guns mounted, but within a short time its offensive 
strength might become formidable. 

One of the most successful of the Confederate privateers, 
the Jefferson Davis, captured Yankee merchantmen all along 
the coast. But the untutored prize crews which sought to 
bring the Davis' prizes into Charleston sometimes came to 
grief. All hands but the Negro steward had been removed 


from the prize schooner S. J. Waring, but about fifty miles 
south of Charleston this doughty Negro butchered three of 
his captors with a hatchet and compelled the rest of the prize 
crew to sail the vessel to New York. 7 The Enchantress of 
Boston was seized off Sandy Hook by the Davis and again the 
prize crew retained on board the Negro cook. Nearing 
Charleston, when hailed by the blockader Albatross, the prize 
crew replied that they were from Newburyport and bound to 
Santa Cruz. At that instant the Negro leaped overboard, 
yelling: 'Tor God's sake, Captain; she's a Secesher, bound for 
Charleston." 8 The Negro's sjtory tallying with accounts of the 
capture in the newspapers, the blockader placed the prize 
crew in irons and sent them with the schooner to Phila- 

Rivaling detective fiction, the Carolina coastal schooner 
Charles McGees, two days before the blockade went into 
effect, cleared from Newbern, North Carolina, with a cargo 
of turpentine. Learning of the blockade at Nevis in the West 
Indies, she sailed to Halifax under the same Susan Jane. 
Here she took on an assorted cargo of blankets, cloth, iron, 
steel, brogans, axes all of which had been shipped to Halifax 
by merchants in Boston and New York, She now made the 
run to Hatteras Inlet, where she was captured by the Pawnee 
and sent to Philadelphia. 

The tempo of the naval blockade in the Gulf was more 
leisurely. In fact, it dragged. For three months after his troops 
had been landed at Fort Pickens, Colonel Harvey Brown con- 
tinued to brandish his original orders covering the reinforce- 
ment o the fort. Now somewhat wrinkled, the document 
read: 9 

Executive Mansion 
Washington, April i, 1861. 

All officers of the Army and Navy to whom this order may be 
exhibited will aid by every means in their power the expedition 
under the command of Colonel Harvey Brown, supplying him 
with men and material and cooperating with him as he may 

desire * Abraham Lincoln 

Beginning the Blockade 65 

In effect this magic paper gave Brown the power of a 
unified command. Considering his position inside Fort 
Pickens as untenable without the stand-by services of all the 
ships in the area, by means of rigorous argument and waving 
of his orders, he contrived to hold all the Gulf vessels at 
anchor off Pensacola Harbor for six weeks. The senior naval 
officer, Captain H. A. Adams, was a senile oldster who com- 
plained that the country had fallen on evil times and wished 
himself in his grave. 10 The U.S.S. Water Witch on May 12 
brought word of Lincoln's proclamation of a blockade and 
on the thirteenth Captain Adams sent an official notice of it 
ashore to General Bragg. 

But not until Captain W. W. McKean in the Niagara 
arrived two weeks later were any of the ships dispersed from 
Pensacola. On this date the Powhatan, under Lieutenant 
D. D. Porter, was sent to establish the blockade at Mobile and 
to watch for the expected arms shipments from Europe. A 
week later, the Powhatan, being relieved at Mobile, shifted 
to a new blockade station off the South West Pass of the 
Mississippi, and Captain Poor in the Brooklyn blockaded Pass 
a TOutre. 

William Mervine, whom Welles appointed to command 
the Gulf Squadron, proved to be a man of correct deport- 
ment and habits who in normal times "would float along the 
stream with others." He was later judged by the Secretary as 
wanting not in patriotism, but in executive ability, "is quite 
as great on little things as on great ones." ai Mervine was long 
in getting out to his station, and accomplished nothing after 
he got there. 

Mervine's flagship, the huge and clumsy side-wheeler Mis- 
sissippi, escaped from the repairman of the Boston Navy Yard 
on May 23. As she steamed down the harbor, a sabotaged 
delivery pipe, through which water was forced out of the side 
of the ship, gave way, pouring a flood of water into the ship. 12 
The engines were immediately stopped and an anchor thrown 
out. After making temporary repairs she tried to haul in her 


cable. It broke and she limped back to the navy yard mourn- 
ing the loss of a six-thousand pound anchor. 

Mervine reached Key West on June 7 and began puttering 
over details. One matter which doubtless disgusted Gideon 
Welles was the excessive attention the flag officer paid to a 
political favor that had been asked of Lincoln. On May 28 
the President had written the Secretary a perfunctory note: 

My dear Sir: A friend of mine residing at Chicago, III, Mr. 
G. Beckwith, has a lady relative, Miss Elizabeth Smith, at St. 
Marks, in Florida, whom he much desires to have brought away 
from there, and he has been induced to think that some of our 
vessels connected with the blockade could effect this without 
much trouble. If this is practicable, I shall be obliged if you will 
direct it to be done. 13 

This note, along with dozens of more important matters, 
Welles relayed to Mervine to be complied with "if practica- 
ble/' But Mervine, instead of disregarding it and attending 
first to the major problems of the blockade in the Gulf 
Mobile, New Orleans, and Galveston were at this time wide 
open squandered the services of a blockade ship for nearly 
three weeks off the coastal village of St. Mark's, exchanging 
letters with the Florida governor, while Miss Smith herself 
evinced no desire to be "rescued." 

After spending two weeks at Key West, Flag Officer 
Mervine made a leisurely arrival off Fort Pickens on June 23, 
and was so impressed by Colonel Brown's outdated orders 
from the President that he employed all the small boats of 
the flagship Mississippi and of the Niagara for two solid weeks 
lightering army stores from transports to the beach. Owing 
to the almost daily arrival of transports, he began at length to 
fear that his seamen would never get naval drill and that his 
ships would be converted into "mere appendages of the 
Army." "It appears/' he explained to the Secretary, ''that his 
Excellency the President issued an order which authorized 
Colonel Brown, on his assuming command of the Depart- 
ment of Florida, to call upon the Navy for aid, at a time, how- 

Beginning the Blockade 67 

ever, when Fort Pickens was in a defenseless condition. I can 
not believe that that order was intended to be continued in 
force when the post was in position to defy attack, well sup- 
plied with men, scows, and large launches sufficient, when 
manned by the soldiers, to afford the means of transportation 
required." 14 Needless to say, Gideon Welles promptly saw 
the President and got the old orders cancelled. Henceforth, 
the naval forces oil Pensacola were to act only "in concert 
with," but not be subordinate to, the Army. Mervine's 
gigantic task, as the Secretary had spelled it out for him, was 
to "establish and enforce a blockade at each and all of the 

ports south of Key West to the Rio Grande The blockade 

must be strict and effectual." 15 

Meanwhile, for the first few weeks the blockaders off 
Mobile, off the Mississippi deltas, and off Galveston did a 
brisk business in capturing coastal vessels that sailed with 
Confederate clearances, apparently in ignorance that United 
States blockaders were their enemy. After the latter fact had 
been assimilated, Confederate shippers shifted their vessels 
to foreign registry. The English consul made a special trip 
from New Orleans to South West Pass to assure Lieutenant 
Porter of the Powhatan that such transfers were "proper" 
and that the English Government was responsible for his acts. 

Only the two most important channels through the Missis- 
sippi deltas could be blocked by the Brooklyn off Pass a 
1'Outre and the Powhatan off South West Pass. There were 
many secondary entrances that could be used by small mer- 
chantmen but there were no shallow-draft blockade ships to 
stand guard over them. The Powhatan and the Brooklyn were 
large and deep of draft. When they saw Confederate vessels 
approaching down the river, they could not enter the river 
to give chase because of the bars of silt that had partially filled 
the channels. It was dangerous, moreover, for the Federal 
craft to leave their stations to chase blockade-runners from 
the outside, making toward the secondary passes. One had to 
prevent enemy raiders from getting out to sea. At New Or- 
leans five cruisers were being outfitted as commerce destroy- 







(julf of 



gled to prevent Confederate cruisers from getting out and 

ers, according to information gathered by Porter. And some 
of these were being strengthened with iron across the bow 
for ramming the Federal ships and forcing open the blockade. 
In April, when the Po-whatan had been fitted out for the 
Fort Sumter expedition and diverted to Fort Pickens, she 
had taken no more stores than necessary. July found her 
anchored athwart the South West Pass of the Mississippi, 
destitute of ordinary materials to keep the ship in order. "We 
cannot raise a tack, scarcely a nail to repair any damages 
with/' Porter reported to Mervine. 16 "We have not an ounce 
of paint on board, nor whitewash. The ship is actually going 

Beginning the Blockade 




Orleans, Mobile, and Pensacola, Lincoln's blockaders strug- 
blockade runners from getting in. 

to ruin for want of her wood being covered. It Is now over a 
year since she had any paint put on her. We could not repair 
a boat for want of a plank, and our machinery having broken 
down brought to my notice that there was no rope in the ship 
to make sheets, bowlines, braces, halyards, etc." Porter re- 
quested Mervine to send to Havana for certain castings to 
repair the Powhatan's boilers, and he begged him to send 
shallow-draft vessels to help seal the blockade of the deltas. 
Boredom of the blockade vexed the active and energetic 
Porter. "A man don't associate down here with alligators, sand 
flies, mosquitoes and rattlesnakes for nothing, he soon gets 


his eye teeth, and gets wide awake/' 17 Porter sent a boat 
party up the river hoping to capture the Confederate tug Ivy. 
If he succeeded, he planned to put two hundred men in her 
and attempt to board and seize the Confederate cruiser 
SumteTj which periodically came down South West Pass and 
Pass a TOutre, hoping to catch the blockaders off station. The 
boat party seized the telegraph operator at Pilot Town and 
cut the wires to New Orleans, but the Ivy did not appear on 
its usual schedule, so the attempt failed. "There is a field here 
for something to do," Porter reported to Mervine. "The 
steamers they have up the river could be captured by a proper 
combination of force, and we could very easily be in posses- 
sion of the lower part of the river and cut them off from 
important supplies. When the hurricane months come on we 
will have to enter the river or go to sea, and the sooner we 
get in with our forces and prevent them from putting up forts 
at any of the Passes the sooner this war will be brought to a 
close. I am an old cruiser in this river, and know every inch 
of the ground. I assure you that an expedition up the river 
is an easy thing for vessels not drawing over 16 feet, and I do 
believe that the people would return to their allegiance if 
they had any guarantee of protection. I know most of the 
pilots, light-house keepers, etc., and this is their feeling/' 18 

The next day, the same mosquito-bitten blockader wrote 
his friend Gustavus Fox: "I have written a long letter to the 
Flag Officer pointing out to him the advantages of coming 
down here and operating in a manner that will produce 
results, but I have no great opinion of flag officers generally, 
especially after they have arrived at the age of one hundred 
years, it is time then for the government to take care of them 
and don't let them go abroad, where they eat Uncle Sam's 
rations without any adequate return/' 19 

On June 30, while the Brooklyn was chasing a blockade- 
runner a few miles from her station at Pass a V Outre, the 
C.S.S. Sumter under Raphael Semmes escaped through the 
unguarded pass. For this faux pas the Gulf Squadron paid 
dearly in the emergency detachment from time to time of 

Beginning the Blockade yi 

ships to chase the raider. The blockade captains themselves 
eagerly sought relief from the tedium of the blockade when- 
ever information as to the Sumter*s whereabouts offered some 
promise of success. Among those going at various times in 
chase of the Sumter were McKean of the Niagara, Poor of 
the Brooklyn, and Porter of the Powhatan. Flag Officer 
Mervine's reputation in the Secretary's office suffered, al- 
though Gideon Welles approved of the energy displayed by 
Mervine's captains in these short emergency cruises after the 
Sumter. Welles prodded Mervine to take his ships inside the 
Mississippi River and to obstruct as many inlets as possible 
by sinking in them worthless blockade-runners, but the inef- 
fectual Mervine failed to obtain results. 

The most brilliant exploit of Mervine's regime was the 
cutting out and burning of the rebel commerce raider Judah 
on September 14. This craft, as watchers from Fort Pickens 
could plainly see, was moored to the wharf at the Pensacola 
Navy Yard under the protection of guns mounted on shore. 
In the spirit of Stephen Decatur at Tripoli, a hundred sea- 
men from the Colorado in launches and cutters rowed in 
darkness across the bay. An instant before boarding they were 
discovered and fired into by a volley of musketry. While the 
fight raged, Yankee crews set fire to the vessel below decks. A 
ten-inch columbiad on shore, fired rather than aimed at the 
attackers, was seized and spiked, and its tampion was brought 
off as a souvenir. Three Federals were killed and eleven 
wounded. One of the raiders, having lost his distinguishing 
mark during the fighting, was killed by a shipmate. 

The flaming Judah, lighting the way for the retreating 
boats, burned her mooring ropes, drifted into the middle of 
the bay, and sank when the flames ate through her hull. 

Flag Officer Mervine's good tidings of the destruction of the 
Judah crossed in the mails the Secretary's orders detaching 
him and assigning command of the Gulf Blockading Squadron 
to Captain W. W. McKean of the Niagara. 

To McKean, in giving him the command, Gideon Welles 
explained that his energy and promptitude had impressed 


the department. "The condition o public affairs is such that 
the country demands that the best men in the service should 
be called upon to command her navies and armies. . . . You 
have a difficult duty to perform, but this you will meet with 
alacrity, and, I feel assured, will surmount, to your own and 
the country's satisfaction. To lock up the outlets of the great 
central valley of the continent so that her products in that 
portion of the insurgent States shall not reach the ocean, and 
so that the craving wants of her population for the products 
of other lands shall not be supplied while their hands are 
raised against the Government, will demand your special 
attention. I need not enlarge upon its importance, and of 
the embarrassments you will experience in closing the passes 
and numerous bayous and inlets along the whole coast. 
These difficulties will present themselves to you, and on the 
resources of your own mind, with such assistance as the De- 
partment can send you, must you rely to remove them/' 20 

The burning of the Judah, happily, afforded Secretary 
Welles opportunity to say a few truly gracious words to old 
William Mervine, now retiring after fifty-three years in the 


Early Amphibian Operations 

on the Coast 


seizure of a point on the Atlantic coast suitable for a coaling 
depot and rendezvous for the blockading squadron, Gideon 
Welles in late July presented the matter to Lincoln and the 
Cabinet. 1 The rout of Bull Run had just shaken the capital 
to its foundations and the Government, yet jittery after the 
debacle, approved Mr. Welles's plan for a positive strike down 
the coast "upon the flank of the enemy." The War Depart- 
ment appointed General Thomas West Sherman to lead the 
military forces, and after many conferences Welles selected 
Captain Du Pont, chairman of the strategy board, to com- 
mand the naval contingent. To gain the maximum psycho- 
logical advantage the point chosen for attack, Port Royal 
Sound, lay in South Carolina, chief leader of Secession. Port 
Royal Sound was a beautiful anchorage from one to three 
miles wide and extending twenty miles inland. It washed the 
shores of some of the wealthiest of the Sea Island plantations 
and cut across the important protected waterway between 
Savannah and Charleston at a point forty-five miles south- 
west of Charleston and thirty northeast of Savannah. "The 
importance of this expedition . . ./' Welles on August 3 wrote 
Du Pont, "cannot be overestimated." 2 He ordered Du Pont 
to proceed to New York as early as practicable, confer with 
General Sherman, and lose no time in getting afloat. 



From the start, the Port Royal expedition encountered 
exasperating delays. After Bull Run no troops could be re- 
moved from the pool of soldiers in the Washington area. 
T. W. Sherman was directed to interview the governors of 
New England states with a view to obtaining certain new 
regiments, but on August 20, as the time approached for 
the expedition to leave, the New England troops were diverted 
to Washington because of fresh Confederate threats on the 
Potomac. A month later Sherman himself was ordered by 
General Scott to come to Washington, bringing all his troops 
except the smallest guard necessary to protect his camp in 
New York. By September 18 the military plans had been 
shifted so often that Lincoln wrote a directive to the War 
Department that the "joint expedition of the Army and 
Navy, agreed upon some time since ... is in no wise to be 
abandoned, but must be ready to move by the ist of or very 
early in October/' 3 Du Pont, promoted to flag officer of the 
new South Atlantic Blockading Squadron in mid-September, 
was thus given time to make elaborate preparations for the 
naval part of the expedition. 

Meanwhile, in August the Navy Department also launched 
an amphibian force to close and lock the back door to Norfolk 
and Richmond, and this became the first such movement to 
be carried through during the Civil War. The blockade 
ships at Hampton Roads cut off Virginia's chief cities from 
direct commercial intercourse with Maryland and with 
Europe. Indirect communications, however, were still open 
via the extensive inland waterways along the Virginia and 
North Carolina coasts. Vessels drawing no more than eight 
feet of water could pass from Richmond or Norfolk through 
the Dismal Swamp Canal into Currituck, Pamlico, and 
Albemarle Sounds. Over these waters, even in peaceful times, 
the extent of traffic in cotton, grain, lumber, turpentine, and 
provisions of all kinds was immense. "The shores of Curri- 
tuck/' wrote a blockade officer with financial interests in the 
area, "are lined with large and expensive hotels and cottages, 
where in summer crowds of wealthy resort for summer bath- 

Early Amphibian Operations on the Coast 75 

ing The waters are covered with vessels carrying on in- 
land trade, while many steamers ply to and from the many 
towns and villages. All this being the case . . . the effect of a 
blockade from the Rip Raps [in Hampton Roads] will to a 
great extent be evaded/' * 

On the same day that Du Pont was ordered to prepare for 
Port Royal, Secretary Welles, with the approval of the 
strategy board, ordered Flag Officer Stringham to close the 
inlets into the North Carolina sounds by sinking across them 
hulks loaded with stone. 

It was a drastic measure, this destruction of North Caro- 
lina's inland ports. Whether the damage would prove perma- 
nent none could tell. But after Bull Run, with the enlistments 
of the three months' volunteers running out and the end of 
the war farther away than ever, the struggle took on a greater 
earnestness for Lincoln's Navy. The blockaders themselves, 
with a few chartered steamers and tugs, could haul the stone 
hulks down the coast from Baltimore and sink them in unde- 
fended inlets. But the "pirates' nest" of Hatteras Inlet, with 
its two log-and-sand forts, called for a cooperating army. 
Welles persuaded General Scott to detail temporarily a force 
of 880 men from Fortress Monroe under General Benjamin 
F. Butler to aid Stringham. 

In a conference on board the flagship, Butler found String- 
ham cool toward the project Stringham told Butler that the 
vessels necessary could not be immediately prepared. 5 String- 
ham believed that the very nature of the inlets through the 
sand bar made the idea of block ships absurd, and only a few 
weeks earlier had written the Secretary that the channels of 
such inlets were constantly changing: "A single gale often 
closes up a channel and opens a new one." 

Butler, a skillful Massachusetts lawyer and politician, had 
just been superseded as commander at Fortress Monroe by 
the superannuated General John E. Wool. He was at the 
moment smarting under a sense of injustice and anxious to 
refute the judgment of his detractors by winning a military 
victory. For Butler, Hatteras Inlet was made to order. Look- 


ing over the map with Stringham, the Massachusetts political 
general became convinced that, rather than destroy Hatteras 
Inlet, it would be better to place a small garrison there and 
hold it, saving thereby "the services of one or more blockad- 
ing vessels, at a very exposed and strong point of the coast 
during the Autumn, besides furnishing a Depot at which the 
blockading Steamers could go and get supplies." This being 
precisely what Stringham wanted, Butler undertook to per- 
suade Washington of its feasibility, and preparations for the 
expedition went forward smoothly. 

Several captains of vessels wrecked at Cape Hatteras came 
off in rowboats from Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets to be 
rescued by blockade ships. Having been held prisoner in 
Fort Hatteras, they were able to give Stringham valuable in- 
formation on conditions there. In six weeks these men had 
seen as many as one hundred vessels pass through Hatteras 
Inlet. The majority of these were bound to the West Indies, 
with naval stores, rice, and lumber. Four armed privateers 
stationed there had captured nine prizes. On signal from a 
lookout that the coast was clear of blockaders and that a 
merchantman was in sight, these craft dashed out to seize 
their hapless victims. The two forts were located on the right- 
hand side entering Hatteras Inlet and were spaced a mile 
apart so as to allow a cross fire on vessels negotiating the 
channel Fort Hatteras, the largest and furthest to the west, 
was octagonal in shape. Its walls of sand, five feet high and 
twenty feet across the top, were covered with heavy turf lifted 
from a near-by salt marsh. They mounted eight guns. Fort 
Clark, on the seaward side of the sand beach, was a square 
structure half the size of Fort Hatteras, with four guns. The 
forts had been constructed by 180 North Carolina slaves 
under the supervision of Colonel W. B. Thompson, C. S. A., 
and were garrisoned by three companies under Major W. S. G. 
Andrews, C. S. A. 

The expedition which cleared from Hampton Roads by 
1:00 P.M. on Monday, August s?6, consisted of seven naval 
ships: 6 

Early Amphibian Operations on the Coast 77 

Minnesota, flagship, steam frigate, 3,307 tons, 47 guns, Captain 

Gersholm J. Van Brunt 
Wabash, steam frigate, 3,274 tons, 46 guns, Captain Samuel 

Susquehannah, side-wheel sloop, 2,450 tons, 12 guns, Captain 

John S. Chauncey 
Cumberland, sailing sloop, 1,708 tons, 24 guns, Captain John 

Monticello, screw steamer, 655 tons, 3 guns, Commander John P. 

Pawnee, steam sloop, 1,289 tons, 10 guns, Commander Stephen C. 

Harriet Lane, side-wheel steamer, 600 tons, 2 guns, Captain John 

Faunce (U. S. Revenue Marine) 

Two chartered vessels were sent for carrying troops: the 
Adelaide, under Commander Henry S. Stellwagen, and the 
George Peabody, under Lieutenant R. B. Lowry; and the 
"tug" Fanny, with one gun, under Lieutenant Pierce Crosby. 
The Fanny was not an ocean-going steam tugboat but a flat- 
bottomed canalboat for navigating shallow reaches of the 
sounds. Only a daredevil would have risked his neck in the 
open sea on such a craft. Each of the troop ships towed a 
stone-freighted hulk with surf boats lashed topside. 

The passage down the coast was rough enough to make the 
troops seasick and not so bad as to swamp the canalboat. The 
latter, with her boilers secured to the deck with rope, rolled 
about like a tub, but she came through. Her skipper, wrote a 
reporter on the flagship, "deserves much credit for his valor 
perhaps less for his discretion." 7 

Tuesday afternoon the armada came to anchor off Hatteras 
Inlet. Surf boats were hoisted out and preparations were 
made for landing the troops the next morning. "Our plan," 
General Butler at this moment wrote Mrs. Butler, "is to land 
the troops under cover of the guns of the 'Harriet Lane' and 
'Monticello* while the 'Minnesota' and 'Wabash* try to shell 
them out of the forts. We are then to attack on the land side, 
and my intention is to carry them with the bayonet/' 8 


Early the next day the Minnesota, flying Stringham's flag at 
the fore, stood in toward the outer bar, followed by the 
Wabash and the Cumberland. The Minnesota (47 guns) and 
the Wabash (46 guns) were powerful screw steamers with guns 
on two decks and rated as frigates. The Cumberland (24 guns) 
was a sailing ship of the old wood-and-sail Navy which had 
had to leave Hampton Roads ahead of the other ships and 
now had to be towed into action by the Wabash. As String- 
ham's ponderous vessels moved toward the channel, Forts 
Hatteras and Clark became visible, along with the little 
village of wooden shacks used as barracks for soldiers and 
Negro laborers. In Pamlico Sound, beyond the narrow neck 
of land, at the tip of which lay the forts, Stringham could see 
three steamers, several schooners under sail, and a brig at 
anchor under the guns of the forts. 

At ten o'clock the Wabash and the Cumberland opened 
fire on Fort Clark, which was nearer. The fort replied 
promptly, but its shot fell short by half the distance, raising 
a shout of derision on the Federal gun decks. A stray shot 
from the ships landed in a herd of cows behind the forts and 
set the animals loping to the other side of the point. The 
Minnesota at 10:10 passed inside of the Wabash and the 
Cumberland , and a quarter of a mile nearer the shore, and the 
firing was kept up steadily and rapidly. These heavy vessels, 
since they drew from twenty-one to twenty-three feet of water, 
could not enter the channel, but had to move back and forth 
along the outer edge of the bar. Confederate shot fell near 
but did not quite reach them. The Southern cannon were 
antiquated smoothbores, chiefly thirty-two's, and were placed 
to command the channel immediately in their front. String- 
ham's big ships were beyond the range of the forts. 

In the excitement on board the flagship, the chaplain forgot 
himself and cheered a well-aimed shot, then covered his 
embarrassment by pouring coffee for the gunners. One of the 
Minnesota's guns was manned by a crew of fugitive slaves. 
The sweating blacks, whose legal status as "contraband of 
war" had been recently established by General Butler, 

Early Amphibian Operations on the Coast 79 

worked with a will. In all hands the fighting spirit ran high. 
Seaman J. D. Kraigbaum, while sponging a gun, dropped his 
hot sponger overboard. Instantly he dived into the water to 
retrieve it and was pulled back on board through a porthole 
by his comrades. He tried to explain that he had not wanted 
his gun to be disgraced. 9 

By 11:30 A.M. the troops commenced landing under the 
protective cover of Stringham's shallowest vessels, the Harriet 
Lane, the Monticello> and the Pawnee. A freshening easterly 
wind stirred up considerable turbulence along the beach, 
capsizing two iron surf boats when they reached the breakers. 
Two wooden boats were crushed to matchs ticks. The troops 
were thoroughly soaked as they floundered ashore through 
breakers. Some 315 men only were got on shore and two 
small howitzers, one with a carriage wheel crushed. Most of 
the ammunition had been saturated by the surf. No water, 
no provisions had been put on the beach. 

By 125:25 P.M. the flags on both the forts had been shot 
away or lowered. Through the smoke, the garrison of smaller 
Fort Clark could be seen abandoning their works and running 
toward Fort Hatteras. What happened on shore could not be 
too clearly seen from the flagship, the forts being in a straight 
line from the flagship and obscured by smoke. But it was 
clear enough that the Federals on the beaches were racing 
toward the abandoned fort. At 12:30 P.M. the flag officer 
ordered cease fire. At 2:00 P.M. the American ensign was 
raised over Fort Clark to the cheers of the Union seamen and 
soldiers. The light-draft Monticello was ordered to enter the 
inlet and take possession of the larger Fort Hatteras. The 
latter, however, had not yet surrendered. The Monticello^ 
coming within range, was fired upon. She drew twelve feet, 
and was caught in a narrow hole in the wall. 

Stringham resumed his fire against Fort Hatteras to cover 
the Monticello. The little vessel absorbed several hits from 
the fort, but sustained no casualties, and in less than an hour 
wriggled back out of the channel. But Fort Clark, occupied 
by Federal troops, lay in a direct line with Stringham's target, 


Fort Hatteras. Some Federal shot, falling short, frightened 
Butler's troops into abandoning Fort Clark and returning to 
their original landing place up the beach. 

By evening, when Stringham ceased fire, the weather had 
thickened and the breakers were more formidable than ever. 
No water or provisions had been, or could be, sent to the 
troops on shore and the big ships had to gain an offing to 
avoid being beached. During the night shallow-draft steamers 
stood inshore to protect the troops. 

On shore the stranded Federals scooped holes in the sand 
but found only brackish water. They seized a few sheep and 
geese, however, which they spitted on bayonets and roasted 
over campfires. 

Happily the threatened storm blew over. Early the next 
morning Stringham was able to return and renew the bom- 
bardment. He now cut his fuses longer so as to overwhelm 
Fort Hatteras with a rain of ten-inch shells. 

Reinforcements, meanwhile, arrived for the Southern forts, 
but, since their guns were outnumbered and outranged by 
the heavies of the fleet, these Confederate troops were not 
disembarked from the steamers that brought them across 
Pamlico Sound. Only Commodore Samuel Barron, formerly 
of the U. S. Navy and a snow-haired veteran of 1812, dis- 
embarked from the Rebel steamer and was persuaded by the 
fort's commander to take over the responsibility of command. 
With naval projectiles falling into Fort Hatteras at the rate of 
thirty a minute and the fort's magazines threatened, Barron 
at 11:10 A.M. on the twenty-ninth raised the white flag. 
Stringham's gunners mounted into the rigging to cheer the 

General Butler, in the canalboat Fanny , transported Com- 
modore Barron and two other Confederate officers out to the 
flagship to deliver their swords and sign an unconditional 

The next day, Federal troops were landed to garrison the 
Hatteras Inlet forts, and about seven hundred prisoners were 
embarked upon the Minnesota. Confederates too badly 

Early Amphibian Operations on the Coast 81 

wounded to be moved were cared for at Fort Hatteras by 
Federal surgeons. Other wounded were placed on the Ade- 
laide for transportation to the military hospital in Annapolis. 

Since the Federal troops had brought rations and water 
for only ten days, it was now imperative that fresh supplies 
be sent them immediately. To persuade Washington to re- 
tain Hatteras as a naval base rather than destroy its forts and 
block its channel, General Butler left Hatteras on the Ade- 
laide at 2:30 P.M. on the thirtieth. Half an hour later String- 
ham with a shipload of prisoners of war set sail for New York. 

Butler stopped briefly at Hampton Roads to report the 
victory to General Wool and obtain his permission to go on 
to Washington. Stringham entrained for Washington as soon 
as he had disembarked the prisoners in New York. 

To the uninitiated newspaper men, as well as to some 
captains on the blockade, the sudden return of the two 
commanders to Washington resembled a foot race between 
them to see who would be first to carry the good news, but in 
this instance interservice rivalry was more apparent than 
real. In Washington Butler put across his own and String- 
ham's idea about Hatteras. Stringham brought to the Navy 
Department the flag captured at Fort Hatteras. Fresh orders 
were obtained not to sink the block ships but to hold Hatteras 
and convert it into a base. Supplies were got off to the garrison 
troops left there. 

National salutes were fired at all navy yards, and there was 
sincere rejoicing throughout the North as the first Federal 
victory of the war was hailed as an offset to Bull Run and 
an augury of greater victories to follow. 

It was only in later weeks that the joke about the foot race 
between Stringham and "Old" Butler went sour, after Butler 
had detached himself from Fortress Monroe with a commis- 
sion from Lincoln to raise troops in New England for further 
combined operations down the coast, and after Stringham had 
failed to follow up the success at Hatteras by scourging the 
inland waterways of North Carolina and Virginia as the news- 
papers demanded that he should, or even by sinking block- 


ships in other inlets, as Welles had directed. Then it was that 
the press began needling Mr. Lincoln's Navy by pointing out 
that the Hatteras expedition had suffered no casualties what- 
ever and by hinting of bad blood between the Army and 

Under censure from the press, Stringham resigned and 
Welles was pleased to accept the resignation. 10 

The time had come for the Navy Department to divide the 
Atlantic blockade coast into two sections, and Welles be- 
lieved that even if Stringham had not resigned he would prob- 
ably have had to be relieved because of his oversensitivity to 
the reduction of his command. Upon appointing two greatly 
junior officers, L. M. Goldsborough and S. F. Du Pont respec- 
tively, to the commands of the North and the South Atlantic 
Blockading Squadrons, Gideon Welles made clear his inten- 
tion henceforth not to be bound by the consideration of rank 
in choosing flag officers, but to seek out the best talents in the 
service. He now had a retirement board at work weeding out 
the well-meaning but inefficient. His blockade, he warned the 
new commanders, must be made strict. Obstruction of the 
inlets on the coast "neglected since the capture of Hatteras . . . 
should be executed with as little delay as possible," and 
without specifically mentioning Port Royal, for security rea- 
sons, he made clear the government's determination to carry 
through the Port Royal plans with vigor, 11 

To smother the fire beneath the newspaper smoke, Lincoln, 
through his War and Navy Departments, specifically in- 
structed Du Pont and T. W. Sherman that there must be 
complete cooperation between the services. "The President, 
Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy/' wrote Scott to 
Sherman, ''requires and expects the most effective and cordial 
cooperation between the commanders of the expedition." 
And Welles warned Du Pont: "The President expects and re- 
quires ... the most cordial and effectual cooperation . . . and 
will hold any commander o either branch to a strict respon- 
sibility for any failure to procure harmony and secure the 
results proposed." 12 

Early Amphibian Operations on the Coast 83 

Two weeks of excellent October weather came and went 
while the expedition was being assembled. The Port Royal 
venture was larger than any amphibian movement the United 
States had ever attempted and involved about 75 vessels. In 
addition to men-of-war, the Navy employed 20 colliers and 6 
supply vessels, while the Army amassed 25 transports to carry 
Sherman's 16,927 soldiers, and miscellaneous specialized craft 
to carry live cattle for provisions and horses as mounts for gen- 
erals and their staffs. The horses were loaded on the transport 
Union on October 14, and Sherman's troops were embarked 
at Annapolis on the twentieth. By October 22 the entire ex- 
pedition was in Hampton Roads waiting for the weather to 
clear before sailing. During the delay General Sherman dis- 
covered that his supply vessels had been loaded upside down, 
and that it would take four days of unloading to dig out his 
small arms ammunition from the holds of the vessels. General 
Wool obligingly supplied him with 350,000 rounds of car- 
tridges from the magazine at Fortress Monroe. But a week 
later, the expedition had still not been able to sail and Sher- 
man wore thin his welcome when compelled to ask General 
Wool to replace the cooked rations that his men had con- 
sumed while waiting. 

The weather finally clearing, Du Pont and Sherman sailed 
south from Hampton Roads on October 29. The flagship 
Wabash, out in front, led the parade like a drum major. Eight 
naval ships in two columns followed. Then came the trans- 
ports in three columns, each headed by an ocean linerthe 
Vanderbiltj, the Baltic and the Atlantic. Two naval craft 
guarded each flank of the transport group, and two served as 
whippers-in in the rear. 

Off Cape Hatteras the symmetry of Du Font's formation 
was shattered by a hurricane. The Union, loaded with horses, 
and the Osceola, an army supply vessel, were wrecked on the 
North Carolina coast and seventy-three members of their 
crews were taken as prisoners to Raleigh. The supply vessel 
Peerless, loaded with cattle, broke up in the trough of the 
waves. A small boat manned by some of the crew of the U.S.S. 


Mohican at great peril brought the crew of the Peerless to 
safety on board their own ship. The converted naval steamer 
Isaac Smith sprang leaks at her water line and had to dump 
her guns overboard. The seventeen-year-old-side-wheeler 
Governor, chartered in Boston to carry a battalion of marines 
to Port Royal, rolling heavily, lost smokestack and rudder. 
Fortunately the stricken transport floundered into the vicinity 
of the sailing frigate Sabine, herself blown off from her block- 
ade station. The Sabine's commander, Cadwallader Ringgold, 
dropped anchor and by paying out his cable drifted his ship 
toward the wreck. About forty marines leaped to the rescuer's 
deck, six fell short and disappeared under the churning water, 
and the rest a few hours later jumped into the sea to be res- 
cued by a small boat from the Sabine. 

On Saturday morning, November z, there was only one sail 
in sight from Du Font's flagship. Sealed orders, however, had 
been distributed to the captains, notifying them of the ren- 
dezvous, to be opened in case they were separated. The gale 
moderated the next day and by Monday some twenty-five of 
the scattered vessels had appeared off Port Royal bar. As this 
bar lay ten miles to seaward of the harbor, with no prominent 
shoreline features from which to take bearings, Du Pont had 
brought Coast Surveyors to sound and buoy the channel, and 
while this was being done he sent in a reconnaissance group. 

At 8:30 A.M. on Thursday, November 7, eight days after his 
departure from Hampton Roads, Du Pont headed into the 
sound to deal with the Confederate forts. Behind him at an- 
chor about eight miles from shore were the transports. So 
many small boats had been destroyed by the hurricane that it 
was not feasible to take the troops ashore to cooperate as 
planned by assaulting the forts. The Navy was going it alone. 
Ahead of him loomed the two forts, for whose eighty heavy 
land-based guns Du Pont, a seaman of the old days of wood 
and sail, had great respect. Fort Walker to port, on Hilton 
Head Island, was the larger; Fort Beauregard lay to starboard 
on the southern tip of St. Helena Island. In the sound, look- 
ing as belligerent as possible, were Confederate Commodore 

Early Amphibian Operations on the Coast 85 

Tattnall's force of one river steamer and two tugs mounting 
one or two guns each. Unable really to make any reasonable 
retort to Du Font's massive gunpower, turtle-jawed Josiah 
Tattnall waited for the first shot to be fired at himself, then 
dipped his blue flag in acknowledgment of the compliment 
and scurried for safety into nearby Skull Creek. Upstage in 
the distance were steamers with sightseers from Charleston 
and Savannah, filled with high hope that the Federal Navy, 
violating South Carolina's waters, would be sunk by the forts. 
Du Font's main strength lay in nine ships and gunboats 
proceeding slowly in line as follows: 13 

Wabash, flagship, steam frigate, 3,274 tons, 46 guns, Commander 

C. R. P. Rodgers 
Susquehannah, side-wheel sloop, 2,450 tons, 12 guns, Captain 

J. L. Lardner 
Mohican, screw steamer, 994 tons, 6 guns, Commander S. W. 

Seminole, screw steamer, 801 tons, 6 (?) guns, Commander J. P. 


Pawnee, steam sloop, 1,289 tons, 10 guns, Lieutenant Com- 
mander R. H. Wyman 

Unadilla, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 4 guns, Lieutenant N. Collins 
Ottawa, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 4 guns, Lieutenant T. H. 

Pembina, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 4 guns, Lieutenant J. P. 

Vandalia, sailing sloop, Commander E. S. Haggerty 

The last vessel in line, without steam power, was being towed 
into action by the Isaac Smith, which, under Lieutenant Com- 
mander J. W. A. Nicholson, had steam power but had dis- 
carded her guns during the storm. 

Alongside and moving in a parallel line to the right of the 
main column was a flanking squadron of five gunboats: 

Bienville, side-wheel gunboat, 1,557 tons, 8 guns, Commander 

Charles Steedman 
Seneca, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 4 guns, Lieutenant Daniel 



Curlew 3 screw gunboat, 380 tons, 5 (?) guns, Lieutenant G. P. 


Penguin, screw gunboat, 389 tons, 5 guns, Lieutenant T. A. Budd 
Augusta, steamer, 1,310 tons, 9 guns, Commander E. G. Parrott 

Du Font's plan was to pass up the channel with his main 
battle line midway between Forts Walker and Beauregard to 
a point about two and one half miles beyond the forts, then, 
by turning repeatedly to port, to pass and repass Fort Walker 
at varying ranges. After its first run past the forts, the flank- 
ing squadron was to take a fixed position inside the sound 
from which to encounter Fort Walker on its weakest flank 
and at the same time to enfilade its two water faces, while 
Du Pont attacked them from the front. 

The action took place on a stretch of the sound five miles 
long and two and one half miles wide, the latter being the 
distance between the forts. 

The battleships filed slowly up the channel, with just 
enough speed to overcome the tide and preserve the order of 
battle without becoming a fixed mark for the enemy's fire. 
Everything moved according to plan, steadily, scientifically, 

Captain Steedman of the Bienville was a South Carolinian. 
After Du Font's first turn Steedman dropped anchor with 
others of the flanking squadron and enfiladed Fort Walker. At 
noon, Commander Percival Drayton, another South Caro- 
linian, arriving in the PocahontaSj joined Du Font's group. 
Ironically Commander Drayton was entering battle against 
his own brother, Confederate General Thomas F. Drayton, 
who commanded the force on Hilton Head. Steedman, recog- 
nizing his friend Percival Drayton, swung his cap overhead 
and shouted, "Three cheers for South Carolina!" "Three 
cheers for South Carolina and the American flag!" called back 
Drayton in stentorious voice. 14 

On both sides the firing was too high. Upon entering the 
stage in the middle o the action, Drayton had seen shells 
from the fleet fall as much as a mile and a half behind the 
forts. These shells gouged furrows through near-by cotton 

Early Amphibian Operations on the Coast 87 

fields. Some also landed in front of the fort, splashing geysers 
of sand into the air. Much damage was inflicted by the Con- 
federates upon the rigging of the ships. One shell hored a 
clean hole through the mainmast of the Wabash about twelve 
feet above the deck rail. 

At 1:15 P.M. the Ottawa signaled that Fort Walker had 
been abandoned. The flagship made a wide turn at the outer 
end of the channel. As soon as the Wabash and the Susque- 
hannah had come about and brought their guns to bear upon 
Fort Walker for the third time, Du Pont lowered his gig and 
sent ashore his aide, Commander John Rodgers, under flag of 
truce. The Confederate garrison was decamping across the 
cotton fields. Rodgers at 2:00 P.M. hoisted the United States 
flag the first to be raised on the soil of South Carolina since 
Fort Sumter was lost and brass bands throughout the fleet 
struck up "The Star Spangled Banner." 

Du Pont honored Commander C. R. P. Rodgers, the TFfl- 
bash's captain, by sending him ashore with a boatload of 
marines and sailors to take possession. General T. W. Sher- 
man now landed and occupied Fort Walker. 

Fort Beauregard, too, was vacated by its garrison and was 
occupied by Sherman the morning after the battle. 

H. J. Winser, reporter for the New York Times, prowling 
through the deserted camp behind Fort Walker, noted evi- 
dences of hurried departure. "Most of the tents had been 
undisturbed. Officer's furniture, uniforms and other clothing, 
dress swords, small stores, with here and there an article 
which told that even in camp the warriors had not been 
wholly bereft of the society of their wives, mothers, and sis- 
ters. . . . Over the meadow . . . were scattered blankets, knap- 
sacks, (some of which, singularly enough, were recognized as 
those which had been cast away by our panic-stricken troops 
at Bull Run,) muskets, bayonets, cartridge-boxes, and a few 
dead mules and broken vehicles, not camp wagons, but family 
carriages, which had been used to carry away the dead and 
wounded." 15 

Commander Steedman, a native of Charleston, saw to the 


burial of the eight South Carolinians whose bodies were 
found in Fort Walker, the chaplain of the Wabash reading 
the Episcopal burial service. 

To Washington Du Pont sent the captured flags of the 
forts and the United States ensign which John Rodgers had 
raised over Fort Walker. 

Gideon Welles acknowledged Du Font's great victory with 
"hearty congratulations/' and national salutes at all navy 
yards. Lincoln recommended, and Congress passed, a joint 
resolution of thanks to Captain Samuel F. Du Pont "for the 
decisive and splendid victory achieved at Port Royal on the 
seventh day of November last/' 16 

After slow and disheartening beginnings, Mr. Lincoln's 
Navy had at last won a substantial victory. But, even while 
Du Font's victory was hanging in the balance, there occurred 
in an obscure channel off the east coast of Cuba an incident 
which threatened to embroil the struggling American repub- 
lic in war with England. 


Wilkes and the Trent Affair 

Europe to recognize Southern independence, the Confederate 
Government in the fall of 1861 appointed two former United 
States senators as ministers plenipotentiary to England and 
France. Perhaps through their skillful argument Europe 
might be induced to sign treaties of amity or to give military 
assistance in lifting the blockade. Ex-Senator James M. Mason 
of Virginia was chosen as minister to Great Britain and ex- 
Senator John Slidell of Louisiana as emissary to France. No 
secret was made of these appointments in Richmond, whose 
Examiner praised Mason as a well-mannered English type o 
gentleman who would promptly eclipse Charles Francis Ad- 
ams, "the Puritan representative of freedom." * Slidell was a 
leader prominent in New Orleans, and a brother-in-law o 
the Creole General Beauregard. 

The North feared the power of these "Rebel traitors" to 
move a Europe already leaning toward the South. The an- 
nouncement that the Southern emissaries would run the 
blockade at Charleston and travel to England on board the 
Confederate commerce raider Nashville was met by angry 
cries to stop them at all costs. Mere mention of England 
aroused the Yankee temper. Was not England supplying arms 
to Southern Rebels? Had not English consuls connived at il- 
legal transfers of Southern vessels to foreign registry? Were 
not British seaports in near-by New Brunswick, Bermuda, and 
the Bahamas entrepots for blockade-runners? Few Americans 



realized that British trade with the blockaded South was but a 
fraction of their commerce with the United States, or that in 
November of 1861 Yankee buyers in London had actually 
cornered the market for saltpetre. 2 

In October, when Mason and Slidell reached Charleston, 
the Washington government doubled the number o blockade 
ships off that port and dispatched the U.S.S. James Adger to 
the English Channel to intercept the Nashville. 

The C.S.S. Nashville was a converted side-wheeler whose 
deep draft would compel her to use the main channel out of 
Charleston. Every afternoon the nimble coasting packet The- 
odora sprinted across the bar off Charleston to see whether 
the coast was clear for the Nashville. One evening Mr. Slidell 
and his two daughters made this trip on the Theodora. The 
swift little craft would tease the blockaders by advancing 
toward them, but always remained prudently beyond range 
of their exasperated guns. At length, however, this cat-and- 
mouse game began to pall. Rather than accept the greater 
risk of capture on the Nashville, the commissioners chartered 
the Theodora to take them to Cuba. 

At 1:00 A.M. on Saturday, October 12, under cover of a 
rain squall, the Theodora scurried out of Charleston Harbor 
with Mason and Slidell and their secretaries, Messrs. Eustis 
and Macfarland. Mrs. Slidell, with the four Slidell children, 
and Mrs. Eustis completed the party. As they ran the block- 
ade, they counted the lights of four Federal ships and passed 
within a mile and a half of the nearest. After skirting the 
coast a short distance, the speedy Theodora headed for the 
open sea, unnoticed by the blockade vessels. 

Off Cardenas, Cuba, the blockade-runner's coal having 
given out, she was courteously escorted into the harbor by a 
Spanish gunboat. The Governor of the port dispensed with 
customhouse formalities in allowing the Confederates' bag- 
gage to land. At Havana, where they learned they would have 
to wait three weeks for an interisland steamer to carry them 
to St. Thomas and the English line, the Confederate agents 
were entertained like ambassadors of recognized powers. The 

Wilkes and the Trent Affair 91 

British Consul General, Joseph T. Crawford, extended them 
every courtesy and introduced them to the Captain General o 
Cuba. Although Crawford explained later to his superiors 
that his actions were unofficial and that he had been ac- 
quainted with Slidell for thirty-six years and was an intimate 
friend of Mr. Mason's brother, his hospitality was given a 
more ample notice in the press than if it had been official. 
For three weeks before the event, the world knew that on No- 
vember 7 Mason and Slidell planned to embark at Havana 
on board the English mail packet Trent for passage to St. 
Thomas, and thence by an English liner to London. There 
was no reason to conceal their intention since the Trent flew 
the neutral flag of Britain and was proceeding from one neu- 
tral port to another. So reasoned the travelers. 

The factor they did not consider was Charles Wilkes. While 
homeward bound from the West Africa Squadron, Captain 
Charles Wilkes of the U.S.S. San Jacinto heard about Mason 
and Slidell when he put in at Cienfuegos, Cuba, for coal. 
Wilkes hurried around to Havana hoping to intercept the 
Theodora. The latter had departed before Wilkes entered Ha- 
vana on October 3 1, but Wilkes's executive officer, Lieutenant 
D. M. Fairfax, a Virginian, recognized Mr. Mason in the 
parlor of the Hotel Cubana and learned what was common 
knowledge that the commissioners planned to sail on the 
Trent on November 7. 

The big question that puzzled Captain Wilkes was whether 
he had a right to capture the persons of these commissioners. 
During a week of desultory cruising to the north of Cuba, 
Wilkes studied various authorities on international law whose 
works were in his ship's library. Clearly a neutral ship carry- 
ing contraband dispatches, whose captain knew they were on 
board, was subject to capture. But Mason and Slidell were 
not dispatches in any literal sense, and nowhere could Wilkes 
find a case to precisely cover that point. In the end Wilkes 
reached the quarter-deck decision that, since they could 
have no passports from a recognized government and were 
avowedly engaged in a mission "adverse and criminal to the 


Union/* their status was that of "conspirators, plotting and 
contriving to overthrow the Government of the United 
States/' s Wilkes decided that these men were subject to cap- 
ture and that, since the captain of the Trent had known in 
advance of their character and intentions, he had in effect 
embarked "live dispatches" essentially contraband, and ren- 
dered his ship liable to capture. 

While Captain Wilkes was immersed in his study of Kent, 
Wheaton, and Vattel, the San Jacinto, in the course of a rou- 
tine boarding operation, ran foul of a French brig and knocked 
out the Frenchman's bowsprit and foretopmast. Wilkes sent 
carpenters on board and escorted the craft to Havana. 
When he ran into Key West for coal, his executive officer, 
who disagreed with Wilkes's conclusion as to the Rebel com- 
missioners' status, suggested that Wilkes consult with Judge 
Marvin of Key West, but he soon saw that Wilkes's decision 
had been made and did not press the matter. 

Charles Wilkes had won fame in the prewar Navy as scholar 
and explorer. As a lieutenant he had commanded the expedi- 
tion which discovered the Antarctic continent, and afterwards 
had spent twenty years on shore writing and editing the re- 
ports on his explorations. A man of science, at his own ex- 
pense he had constructed the first naval observatory in 
Washington. Willful as his own shock of unruly hair, impa- 
tient when listening to others, impetuous, stubborn, he had 
been courtinartialed once, primarily because of his stubborn- 
ness, but had learned nothing from the experience. Such was 
the character of the Federal commander who on November 8 
took station 230 miles east of Havana at a point where the 
Old Bahama Channel becomes so narrow that a single ship 
can effectively patrol it. Here Wilkes placed the San Jacinto 
to waylay the Trent. 

The San Jacinto's guns were run out, muzzle stoppers re- 
moved, crews readied at battle stations. At 1:00 P.M. on the 
eighth when the Trent appeared, Wilkes directed a shot 
across her bow, and, as the oncoming vessel merely slowed her 
engines, he fired a shell which exploded half a cable's length 

Wilkes and the Trent Affair 93 

ahead. She then hove to. Captain Wilkes handed written 
orders to Lieutenant Fairfax to man and arm the cutters. On 
boarding the Trent, the lieutenant was directed to demand 
her passenger list. "Should Mr. Mason, Mr. Slidell, Mr. Eustis, 
and Mr. Macfarland be on board, you will make them prison- 
ers and send them on board this ship immediately, and take 
possession of her as a prize." 4 Fairfax was to seize all their 
papers, trunks, cases, packages, and to convey Captain Wilkes's 
offer of accommodations on board the warship for their 

Lieutenant Fairfax was determined to give the skipper of 
the Trent no unnecessary provocation, for he disagreed with 
Wilkes's earlier decision and hoped to avoid seizing the ves- 
sel. As executive officer, he well knew how difficult it would 
be for the San Jacinto to make up a prize crew to man the 
Trent in case of her seizure. Leaving the armed men in the 
cutter in charge of Second Assistant Engineer Houston and 
Boatswain Grace, Lieutenant Fairfax went on board the 
Trent alone and was shown up to the quarter-deck where he 
met Captain James Moir. The British merchant captain re- 
sented the procedure and refused to show his passenger list. 
Fairfax calmly and courteously told him that he had informa- 
tion that Messrs. Mason, Slidell, Eustis, and Macfarland had 
embarked on the vessel at Havana and that he must satisfy 
himself whether they were on board. Slidell, hearing his name 
mentioned, came up and asked Fairfax if he wished to see 
him. Mason, Eustis, and Macfarland also identified them- 
selves, and vigorously protested when they learned that they 
were to be arrested and transferred to the United States war- 

The Trent's passengers closed in with such angry shouts 
and threats as to bring Engineer Houston and Boatswain 
Grace on board with six or eight marines. 5 

"Did you ever hear of such an outrage?" 

"Marines on board! Why, this looks devilish like mutiny/' 

"These Yankees will have to pay for this." 

"This is the best thing in the world for the South." 


"England will open the blockade." 

"Did you ever hear of such a piratical act?" 

"Why, this is a perfect Bull Run." 

"They would not have dared to have done it if an English 
man-of-war had been in sight." 

Above the clatter arose the loud angry voice of Richard 
Williams, a retired commander of the Royal Navy, who, as 
agent of mails and the only English Government official on 
the Trent, denounced "this act of piracy, carried out by brute 
force." 6 

The San Jacinto's marines cleared the passengers from 
around the cabins where the Confederates had gone to pack 
their baggage. Since Mason and Slidell refused to leave the 
ship unless force was applied, Fairfax summoned a second 
cutter. Two officers grasped Mr. Mason by the shoulder and 
with this gentle application of force walked him to the cut- 
ter. In their stateroom Slidell's distraught family became hys- 
terical. When Lieutenant Fairfax urged Mr. Slidell to come, 
the latter's seventeen-year-old daughter flung herself across 
the doorway to bar his entrance. A slight lurch of the ship 
at this moment upset the girl's balance and she grasped Lieu- 
tenant Fairfax's arm to right herself a trivial incident which 
the newspapers later rendered as "having slapped Mr. Fair- 
fax's face," "she did strike him in the face three times," and 
"went so far as to bare her breast, defying death itself." 7 

To escape the hubbub Slidell stepped out of a window into 
a passageway, where, with Federal hands clapped on his shoul- 
ders, he was marched to the cutter. Mrs. Slidell and Mrs. 
Eustis rejected Captain Wilkes's permission to accompany 
their husbands. 

Back on board the San Jacinto, Lieutenant Fairfax pre- 
sented as reasons for not seizing the vessel the large number 
of enraged passengers who would be put to inconvenience and 
the shortage of officers and men on the warship. Captain 
Wilkes permitted the Trent to proceed on her voyage. 

Wilkes's bold action, climaxing a period of popular sus- 
pense, took the American public by storm. Figuratively at 

Wilkes and the Trent Affair gg 

least Gideon Welles tossed both his hat and his henna-gray 
wig into the air, for this sort of forthright initiative was pre- 
cisely what he wished to inculcate in the captains down the 
blockade coast. Let there be no more pussyfooting of the sort 
that had lost the Pensacola and Norfolk Navy Yards! Hence- 
forth, let there be more bold, forthright quarter-deck deci- 

"Sir: I congratulate you on your safe arrival/' wrote the 
Secretary to Wilkes, "and especially do I congratulate you 
on the great public service you have rendered in the capture 
of the rebel emissaries. Messrs. Mason and Slidell have been 
conspicuous in the conspiracy to dissolve the Union, and it is 
well known that when seized by you they were on a mission 
hostile to the Government and the country. Your conduct in 
seizing these public enemies was marked by intelligence, 
ability, decision, and firmness, and has the emphatic approval 
of this Department. It is not necessary that I should in this 
communication, which is intended to be one of congratula- 
tion to yourself, officers, and crew, express an opinion on the 
course pursued in omitting to capture the vessel which had 
these public enemies on board, further than to say that the 
forbearance exercised in this instance must not be permitted 
to constitute a precedent hereafter for infraction of neutral 
obligations." 8 

The only member of the Cabinet who questioned the le- 
gality of Wilkes's act was Blair, a kinsman of whom had once 
suffered from a quarrel with Wilkes. Blair recommended that 
Wilkes be ordered to transport Mason and Slidell to England 
and deliver them to Lord Palmerston. Otherwise, he pre- 
dicted, England would make war. Seward, the Cabinet mem- 
ber most concerned with foreign relations, "scouted the idea 
of letting the prisoners go." 9 Lincoln knew little about the 
fine points of admiralty law but was concerned for the per- 
sonal safety of the prisoners themselves, in view of the tirades 
that were being made against them. He feared they would be 
"white elephants on our hands." 10 With Lincoln's approval, 


Welles directed Wilkes to take the prisoners to Boston and 
lodge them for safekeeping in Fort Warren. 

Boston banqueted and toasted the new naval hero. The 
mayor praised his "sagacity, judgment, decision, firmness/' 
Governor John A. Andrew extolled his firing across the bows 
of "the ship that bore the English lion's head/* New York 
gave Wilkes an ovation. Representatives in Washington pro- 
posed that he be tendered a vote of the thanks of Congress, 
and demanded that the President confine Mason and Slidell 
"in the cells of convicted felons." al 

Newspapers of the North had a field day. "There is no 
drawing back to our jubilation," proclaimed one metropoli- 
tan paper. "The universal Yankee nation is getting decidedly 
awake. As for Captain Wilkes and his command, let the hand- 
some thing be done. Consecrate another 4th of July to him, 
load him down with services of plate and swords of the 
cunningest and costliest art." 12 A cartoonist hit a popular 
note when he depicted a salty American sea dog in the act of 
lifting two "skunks" with the faces of Mason and Slidell out 
of John Bull's back pockets. Representative Clement L. Val- 
landigham called upon the President to approve Wilkes's act 
"in spite of any menace or demand of the British Govern- 
ment/' 13 

Meanwhile, the attitude that England might take toward 
the Trent case was anyone's conjecture. Wall Street was the 
first to have qualms. On November 20 "war with England 
was the theme, and stocks were thrown out with the same 
eagerness that they were sought for only a day or two ago/' 
The New York Times, deploring this "want of ballast" in the 
public mind, continued to exult over the capture of the two 
"distinguished malignants," than whom "it would be difficult 
to find two men more thoroughly imbued with the views of 
treason." 14 

Two weeks would be required for news of the Trent inci- 
dent to reach London. Then two more weeks for Britain's 
first reactions to be returned to America. As a straw in the 
wind, the American press quoted the Toronto Leader's "hor-^ 

Wilkes and the Trent Affair 97 

ror at Yankee audacity" and its characterization of Wilkes's 
action as "the most offensive outrage which Brother Jonathan 
has dared to perpetrate upon the British flag." 15 From 
Nassau, New Providence, the supercargo of a Confederate 
blockade-runner reported on December 10 to Judah P. Benja- 
min, then Confederate Secretary of War: "The affair of the 
Trent I find creates a universal feeling of indignation among 
the Britishers. I heard an officer say that if the Government 
did not resent it becomingly he would forever renounce his 
title as Englishman/* 16 

England first learned of the incident with the publication 
of two highly emotional and fiction-spiced narratives fur- 
nished by the purser and the mail agent of the Trent. A popu- 
lar "typhoon of fury" broke loose, so tremendous that in 
advance of diplomatic investigation the government at once 
ordered preparations for war. The English squadron in 
American waters was alerted. Queen Victoria on December 
4 signed a proclamation forbidding the exportation from the 
United Kingdom of gunpowder, saltpetre, nitrate of soda, 
percussion caps, and lead. 17 

Onto the British ship Melbourne at Woolwich were loaded 
some thirty thousand Enfield rifles from the Tower, together 
with military clothing and other stores to be sent to Canada. 
There was a certain tongue-in-cheek character to this busi- 
ness, since the St. Lawrence River was frozen and the London 
press noted that it was "not unlikely that the Melbourne will 
go to Portland, and that the stores will be conveyed by rail- 
way to Quebec, across the State of Maine!" 18 The first of 
eight thousand picked troops to be dispatched to Canada 
embarked from London on the Adriatic, an American-built 
British steamer which only a few months ago had been oper- 
ating with American registry under the United States flag. 

Through diplomatic channels, despite the fanfare of the 
press and the quite genuine agitation on the part of the 
peoples of Britain and the United States, the Trent affair was 
speedily settled. Seward notified Charles Francis Adams that 
Wilkes's action had not been authorized by the government 


in Washington. Palmerston's demand for the release of the 
prisoners and a suitable apology was "toned down" by the 
Prince Consort before it left London and was tactfully con- 
veyed in Washington by Lord Lyons. Secretary Seward found 
a way to release Mason and Slidell and at the same time save 
face, by arguing that Britain's present position with regard 
to neutral rights was identical with our own historical posi- 
tion. Seward's ingenious document of seven thousand words 
managed to the private admiration of Welles and other 
members of the Cabinet to reverse his own earlier views on 
the case, and to accede to British demands in a manner accept- 
able to the American public. 

In secrecy, Mason, Slidell, Eustis, and Macfarland were 
released from Fort Warren on January i, 1862, and con- 
veyed by tugboat to Provincetown, to be put on board H.M.S. 
Rinaldo. This last act in the drama was so deftly and quietly 
managed that Boston and the country heard nothing about it 
until later. 

With the surrender of Mason and Slidell disappeared the 
chance of any immediate military alliance between the Con- 
federate States and Britain. "The American eagle/' groaned 
the Richmond Examiner, "screeched his loudest screech of 
defiance then 'Dropt like a craven cock his conquered wing* 
at the first growl of the lion." 19 

Within the month Anglo-American relations had become 
so pacific that Britain's expeditionary force was given permis- 
sion to march across American soil to Canada, the St. Law- 
rence being solid ice; while in London, the Queen's with- 
drawal of her royal embargo on the export of munitions 
caused Anglo-American trade to spring back quickly to a 
wartime norm. 


The Merrimack Threat 


be short, which was reflected in his calling for volunteers to 
serve only three months, appeared also in his ignoring the 
need to build ironclad warships. By the spring of 1861 the 
armored battleship was still in a primitive stage of develop- 
ment. Iron-sheathed floating batteries had been employed in 
the Crimean War, and since then France and England had 
riveted protective armor about the vitals of conventional 
steam warships. But the few existing armored ships had re- 
quired many months to build and were designed for use 
against an overseas enemy. Lincoln's Navy was called upon 
chiefly for shallow-draft work in harbors, inlets, coastal 
sounds, and rivers. 

During the first months of the war Lincoln's Navy Depart- 
ment was badgered by politicians urging the completion of 
the Robert L. Stevens ironclad battery, begun in Hoboken in 
1843 an d abondoned several years before the Civil War upon 
the death of its builder. Congressional appropriations total- 
ing over half a million had been sunk in Stevens's experiment. 
Its basic design had been modified several times during con- 
struction, the inventor never having drafted a set of coherent 
plans. At length the unfinished ironclad had become a "lost 
cause" to its proponents and a "laughing stock" to the disil- 
lusioned. Secretary Welles stood among the latter group. Hav- 
ing no technical knowledge, he was nevertheless a tightfisted 
skeptic who considered armored ship experimentation too 



costly and the utility of the product too dubious; and he dis- 
liked pressure groups. He would appoint no board to examine 
the Stevens battery until August when Congress specifically 
required him to do so. For three months he refused to be side- 
tracked from building up the blockade navy, to which pur- 
pose he was driving every factory in the country that was 
capable of producing marine engines, even the six firms whose 
financial conditions were "doubtful," and during this time 
he brushed aside all critics who sought to divert him into 
building ironclads. 1 

In the end it required a major threat to his blockade fleet 
to enlist Gideon Welles's interest in this new type of ship. 
This threat was posed by the Merrimack. 

The once proud steam frigate of the U. S. Navy, which had 
been scuttled and burned to the water's edge when Norfolk 
was lost, was raised and hauled into the undamaged dry dock, 
where the mud was sluiced from her engines. Early in June 
the Confederate naval secretary Stephen R. Mallory ordered 
the vessel to be rebuilt as an ironclad ram. Aware that the 
South must compensate for her want of industrial power by 
emphasizing novel weapons, Mallory planned to use the re- 
built Merrimack to break the Federal blockade at Hampton 
Roads its most important single point either by ramming 
and staving in the wooden sidewalk of the ships in the Roads 
or by destroying with hot shot the hulls that sought shelter 
under Fortress Monroe. After the work of conversion had 
been under way for more than a month, Mallory called on the 
Norfolk Navy Yard to devote every possible facility to the 
Merrimack "at the expense and delay of every other work on 
hand if necessary." 2 

Mallory's plans and the progress of the work on the Merri- 
mack having forced themselves upon the attention of the Fed- 
eral Navy Department, Welles, on July 4, 1861, presented the 
problem of ironclads to the special session of Congress. It was 
a poor time to be conducting experiments, he averred, and 
officers competent to form "correct conclusions" were occu- 
pied with other pressing and essential duties. England and 

The Merrimack Threat 101 

France "have made it a special object in connection with 
naval improvements; and the ingenuity and inventive facul- 
ties of our own countrymen have also been stimulated by 
recent occurrences toward the construction of this class of 
vessel." 3 Welles recommended the appointment of a board 
to investigate, and he left Congress to decide whether on a 
favorable report they would order "one or more iron-clad 
steamers or floating batteries." Congress, after some prelimi- 
nary kicking around of the Stevens battery "football," on 
August 3 authorized the Secretary to appoint a board "of 
three skilful naval officers" to investigate ironclads, and ap- 
propriated $1,500,000 to build "one or more armored or iron 
or steel-clad steamships or floating steam batteries." * 

Welles promptly advertised for offers to build "iron-clad 
steam vessels of war, either of iron or of wood and iron com- 
bined, for sea or river service, to be of not less than ten nor 
over sixteen feet draft of water. . . . The vessel to be rigged 
with two masts, with wire rope standing rigging, to navigate 
at sea." 5 The deadline for presenting bids was fixed at Sep- 
tember 9, and on August 8 a board was appointed to study the 
whole problem of ironclads, and to winnow the incoming pro- 
posals and recommend which, if any, should be accepted. As 
members of the Ironclad Board Welles's choice fell upon two 
senior officers in the Department: Commodore Joseph Smith, 
an ever-watchful bureau head who, according to popular 
belief, slept with one eye open to guard his yards and docks, 
shrewd old Commodore Hiram Paulding of the Office of 
Detail, and, as the junior member, Commander John A. 
Dahlgren, the ordnance expert. Dahlgren, already filling the 
jobs of commandant of the Washington Navy Yard and super- 
intendent of naval craft used in the defense of Washington in 
addition to supervision of naval gunnery, requested to be 
relieved of the added duty, and Commander Charles H. Davis, 
currently serving on Du Font's strategy board, was substituted 
in place of Dahlgren. The shift was not altogether satisfactory. 
Davis was a fluent writer, useful as its secretary, but the board 
needed, if not an expert in ordnance, then an expert in naval 


construction. They asked that an experienced naval con- 
structor be detailed to assist them, but Welles had literally 
no one not already overworked as inspector of vessels being 

The Ironclad Board approached its researches with hu- 
mility in the face o the unknown, "distrustful of our own 
ability . . . having no experience and but scanty knowledge in 
this branch of naval architecture/' 6 Among naval and scien- 
tific men they found sharply conflicting opinions obscuring 
almost every aspect of the subject. Objections to ironclads 
seemed clear enough: enormous weight of iron, greatly in- 
creased breadth to insure stability, shortage of coal bunker 
space, necessity of greater propulsive power, increased con- 
struction cost. 

With the impending crisis in Hampton Roads in mind, 
they admitted that "wooden ships may be said to be but cof- 
fins for their crews when brought in conflict with iron-clad 
vessels." 7 They conceded that armored ships or batteries 
could be employed advantageously "to pass fortifications on 
land for ulterior objects of attack, to run a blockade, or re- 
duce temporary batteries on the shores of rivers and the ap- 
proaches to our harbors/' 

As there was no way of foretelling what particular kind of 
armored craft would stand up best in fighting, the board de- 
cided to recommend that vessels of several types be built as 
many as the appropriation would allow. Another decision was 
to award the contracts to American builders. English manu- 
facturers, they believed, might produce better vessels, more 
quickly and cheaply, but international situations could com- 
plicate delivery of such ships, and they felt that the Yankee 
craftsmen "should be capable of constructing it themselves." 

One proposal they accepted was for a ship built on conven- 
tional lines with belt armor around the vital midship sector 
(later the New Ironsides), and a second was a gunboat ar- 
mored on the "rail and plate" principle, with closely fitted 
bars on edge, covered by thin plates (later the Galena). 

John Ericsson, the great Swedish marine and military in- 

The Merrimack Threat 103 

ventor, who might logically have been expected to submit a 
bid, failed to do so, and the members of the Ironclad Board, 
aware of Ericsson's ancient feud with the Navy Department, 
were evidently reluctant to stir him up. In the 1840*5 Ericsson, 
at the request of Captain R. F. Stockton, had drafted plans 
and served as professional consultant during the construction 
of the U.S.S. Princeton, the historic first American warship to 
use the screw propeller. Upon completion of the ship in 1844, 
Stockton had neglected to share honors with the sensitive 
inventor and following the explosion on board the Princeton 
of Stockton's gun, the Peacemaker, an inexact copy of a gun 
invented by Ericsson, a quarrel had developed between Erics- 
son and the Navy Department which had left the inventor 
feeling that he had been shabbily treated. 

Actually during the current national emergency Ericsson 
had wished to be approached by the Navy. He had in his files 
the plans and model of an ironclad, turreted vessel which he 
had tried to sell to Napoleon III during the Crimean War, 
a shallow-draft affair that would be ideal for use in Southern 
harbors and rivers. But he could not bring himself to submit 
a proposal to the Navy's Ironclad Board- On August 29, 1861, 
he drafted a letter to President Lincoln: 

Sir: The writer, having introduced the present system of naval 
propulsion and constructed the first screw ship of war, now offers 
to construct a vessel for the destruction of the rebel fleet at Nor- 
folk and for scouring the Southern rivers and inlets of all craft 
protected by rebel batteries Please look carefully at the en- 
closed plans and you will find that the means I propose to employ 
are very simple so simple, indeed, that within ten weeks after 
commencing the structure I would engage to be ready to take up 
position under the rebel guns at Norfolk I have planned up- 
ward of one hundred marine engines and I furnish daily, 
working-plans made with my own hands of mechanical and naval 

structures of various kinds, and I have done so for thirty years 

I cannot conclude without respectfully calling your attention to 
the now well-established fact that steel-clad vessels cannot be ar- 
rested in their course by land batteries, and that hence our great 
city [New York] is quite at the mercy of such intruders 8 


As he was placing the plans into an envelope, it occurred 
to Ericsson that it was unsafe to entrust them to the mails and 
he added a postscript, stating that he was withholding the 
plans, but that, if summoned, he would bring them to the 
White House within forty-eight hours. He now probably de- 
cided that without the plans there was no point in forwarding 
the letter. The original or a copy of it was later found among 
Ericsson's papers by his biographer, and there is no evidence 
of its having reached Lincoln. 

Intelligence of Ericsson's invention did reach the Iron- 
clad Board, however after the time for submitting proposals 
had elapsed. 

Cornelius S. Bushnell, one of the successful bidders, went 
to consult Ericsson professionally about the ironclad he had 
projected. Following the interview, Ericsson exhumed from 
a pile of refuse in a corner the dusty cardboard model of his 
turreted ironclad. Bushnell persuaded the inventor to allow 
him to show it to Mr. Welles. The latter promptly requested 
the Ironclad Board to consider it. 

The junior member of the board told Bushnell that he 
might take the little model home and worship it "as it would 
not be idolatry, because it was made in the image of nothing 
in the heaven above or on the earth below or in the waters 
under the earth." But the two senior members, with en- 
couragement from the Secretary, persuaded Ericsson to come 
to Washington to explain the properties of his proposed ves- 
sel and to demonstrate that it would have enough buoyancy 
to float. Ericsson's little model amused Lincoln, and he ap- 
proved it with a wisecrack: "All I have to say is what the girl 
said when she put her foot into the stocking, 'It strikes me 
there's something in it/ " 9 

Without waiting to receive the Ironclad Board's formal 
report, Gideon Welles polled them individually and author- 
ized Ericsson to go ahead at once. Thus, the keel plates for 
the new craft began rolling through the mill before the 
clerks of the Department had completed the drawing of the 
contract. Between the Secretary and Commodore Smith there 

The Merrimack Threat 105 

was a private understanding, Welles recorded later, that the 
test which Ericsson's contract called for would be that his 
vessel should go to the Norfolk Navy Yard and destroy the 
Merrimack in dry dock. 

To speed the construction of the naval vessel so as to com- 
plete it in one hundred working daysas the inventor rashly 
promised to doEricsson and his financial backers (C. S. 
Bushnell, J. G. Winslow, and J. A. Griswold) let out parts of 
the work to subcontractors. The hull was built by Thomas F. 
Rowland's Continental Iron Works at Greenpoint, Long 
Island, in whose ship house the essential parts were installed 
before the launching; the engines by Delameter & Co.; the 
turret by the Novelty Iron Works, with armor plates manu- 
factured in Baltimore. 

"Ericsson's Folly/' as the vessel came to be called, had two 
hulls. 10 The lower one, to be entirely submerged, was about 
six feet deep, built of half-inch iron, flat-bottomed, with 
inclined sides. In this were located boilers, engines, turret- 
turning mechanism, staterooms, and magazines. The second, 
or upper hull, had straight sides, was longer and broader than 
the under one, was five feet deep, and fitted upside down over 
the lower hull. The vertical sides of the upper hull were 
heavily plated, the heavy wooden deck itself was covered with 
one-inch plates, and inlaid in the center of this deck was a 
wide brass ring upon which the circumference of the turret 
rested. The turret was a cylinder nine feet high and twenty 
across, pierced for two heavy-caliber Dahlgren guns mounted 
side by side. The turret's weight was borne by a twelve-inch 
iron spindle which extended from the top center of the tur- 
ret to the keel of the lower hull and was turned by a donkey 
engine and a system of gears. The craft's two guns were de- 
signed to be fired "on the fly" as the turret was slowly re- 

Ericsson divided his time between his office in lower Man- 
hattan and the shipyard at Greenpoint. The designs for each 
of the three thousand parts of the mechanism went directly 
, from Ericsson's drafting board to the craftsmen in factory or 


blacksmith shop who fashioned them. If for any reason a part 
failed to fit, Ericsson might indicate in chalk on the piece it- 
self where it was to be cut off or hammered in so that it would 
fit. Necessarily the inventor, working at white heat, freely 
modified his original plans as he went along, and to the con- 
sternation of Commodore Smith, whose obligation was to see 
the contract fulfilled forgot what the terms of that out-of- 
date instrument were. As an example, because of the vessel's 
restricted space for coal bunkers the contract specified that 
she should be provided with "masts, spars, sails, and rigging 
of sufficient dimensions to drive the vessel at the rate of six 
knots per hour in a fair breeze." Ericsson ignored this clause 
entirely. As "Ericsson's Folly" neared completion, bets were 
made in Manhattan as to whether she would sink at her 
launching. Since the Mason and Slidell incident was bruited 
in the press at this time, Ericsson suggested that his ironclad 
battery be named the Monitor to admonish not only South- 
ern leaders but the English as well. " 'Downing Street' will 
hardly view with indifference this last 'Yankee notion/ this 
monitor." X1 

"You cannot imagine the intense and almost agonizing 
anxiety of all the heads, from the President down," wrote 
Grlswold to Ericsson on January 10, 1862, "to have one boat 
to use." 12 An old Negress from Norfolk had brought Mr. 
Welles a note from a Unionist workman on the Merrimack. 
The Confederate threat to the blockaders in Hampton Roads 
was nearing completion. She had been cut down to her berth 
deck and an armored citadel with sloping walls had been 
built over the central portion of the ship. The walls of this 
gun fortress, canted at an angle of thirty-five degrees above 
the horizontal to cause shot to glance from them, consisted 
of four inches of iron plates backed by twenty-one inches of 
oak and pine. At either end of the vessel, beyond the casemate, 
the prow and stern were to be nearly awash, just high enough 
to add buoyancy but too low to interfere with the firing of her 
guns. Below the water line a fifteen-hundred-pound castiron 
"shoe" had been fitted across her bow for ramming. 

The Merrimack Threat 107 

Ericsson's little two-gun Monitor, the smallest of the three 
ironclads ordered by the Ironclad Board, was the only one 
that might possibly be finished in time to meet the Mem- 
mack. The Monitor's keel had been laid on October 25. 
Steam was first applied to her engines on December 30, and 
on January 30 she was launched. 

A large crowd gathered on the cold, drizzly day of her 
launching, curious to see whether the weird craft would float 
under her weight of armor. A few minutes before 10:00 A.M. 
the braces were knocked away and the vessel began to skid 
toward the water. United States flags at each end of the 
Monitor fluttered as she started. John Ericsson demonstrated 
his own confidence by riding his craft down the ways, al- 
though he and the little knot of people who stood with him 
on the deck about twenty feet from the vessel's stern had a 
small boat by them as a precaution. "Amidst the greatest 
anxiety on shore and on board, the vessel moved easily into 
the water, not immersing more than six feet of her forward 
deck, and sailing gracefully out into the stream for some dis- 
tance." 13 The crowd on shore, including some who had lost 
bets on her buoyancy, cheered and waved rain-soaked hats 
and handkerchiefs and, immediately upon her being moored 
to the dock, rushed on board to be shown over the ship by 
the proud inventor and workmen. 

The Federal flag officer whose segment of the blockade was 
threatened by the Merrimack was Louis M. Goldsborough 
of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Goldsborough 
seems to have obtained his flag appointment by knowing the 
right people. Born in the Navy, the son of a chief clerk in the 
Department, he had at age eleven received his midshipman's 
warrant predated to 1812, for reasons patriotic but also prac- 
tical since the maneuver gave him five extra years on the 
seniority list. His talk was often blustery, but well meant. 
Midshipmen, while he was superintendent of the Naval Acad- 
emy, took advantage of his deceptive geniality when they set 
fire to his backyard privy and provoked his classic outburst: 


"I'll hang them! Yes, I'll hang them! So help me God, I 
will!" 14 

A "rough sailor" by reputation, he had harried pirates in 
the Greek Archipelago and led a landing party in hand-to- 
hand fighting at Tuspan. He played backgammon with skill, 
was highly sensitive about rank, and did not always see eye 
to eye with the Secretary. His first disagreement with the 
latter probably occurred in a strategy conference just after 
Welles had placed the initial orders for the three ironclads. 
Goldsborough contended, and he could never advocate any- 
thing quietly, that only three such ships would be of no prac- 
tical use. 15 He wanted the department to build thirty, and 
allow the Army to mark time until the iron ships were ready 
to advance! 

Although Goldsborough in February of 1862 had fifty ves- 
sels with which to maintain the blockade from Washington, 
D. G., down the coast to the northern boundary of South 
Carolina, he still did not have all the ships he needed. There 
were three distinct areas within his command, each with its 
own special problems: the Potomac and lower Chesapeake 
Bay, the North Carolina sounds, and the ports of Wilmington 
and Beaufort, North Carolina. 

Only off the latter harbors did the blockaders perform the 
simple routine chores of boarding merchantmen, keeping 
Rebels in port and outsiders out, with an occasional capture 
of a willful violator to break the monotony. As young block- 
ade officer Alfred T. Mahan wrote, "Day after day, day after 
day, we lay inactive, roll, roll." ie It was a welcome relief to 
Commander O. S. Glisson of the Mount Vernon when Gen- 
eral B. F. Butler's transport went aground off Wilmington. 
Glisson and his men buoyed a channel for the embarrassed 
troopship and took on board for the night Mrs. Butler and 
her maid when the general feared his vessel would break up. 

The operation that chiefly engaged Goldsborough during 
the winter of 1861-62 was carrying the war into the North 
Carolina sounds in cooperation with General Ambrose Burn- 
side. A logical outgrowth of Stringham's capture of Hatteras 

The Merrimack Threat 109 

Inlet, the Burnside-Goldsborough amphibian venture won 
General-in-Chief McClellan's approval and an allotment of 
thirteen thousand troops. As at first conceived, it had a three- 
fold aim: the capture of Roanoke Island on the gut between 
Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, operations against the towns 
on Albemarle Sound with the blocking up of the Chesapeake 
and Albemarle Canal, and a strike inland toward Raleigh to 
cut the railroad from Richmond to Charleston. Only the first 
two of these objectives were accomplished, for McClellan 
ruled out the strike against Raleigh by recalling Burnside's 
troops for use in the Peninsula campaign. 

Goldsborough and Burnside sailed from Hampton Roads 
on January 12 and spent three weeks getting army transports 
and supply ships across the bar into Hatteras Inlet and then 
lightening the vessels further in order to drag them across 
the inner bar into Pamlico Sound. 

At Roanoke Island, forty miles to the north, Goldsbo- 
rough's eighteen light-draft warships knocked out a Confed- 
erate mosquito fleet of armed tugboats and pounded three 
land batteries. Burnside disembarked his troops unopposed. 
In a quick march the length of the island, Burnside flanked 
and captured the smaller Confederate army that attempted to 
check him. The capture of Roanoke Island on February 8 
gave the Federals the key to all the rear defenses of Norfolk 
Albemarle and Currituck Sounds, eight rivers, four canals, 
and two local railroads. Effectively it cut off Norfolk from 
four-fifths of its supply of corn, pork, and forage, and de- 
prived Richmond of convenient blockade-runner bases north 
of Beaufort. 

After seizing Roanoke Island, the Federal forces might well 
have concentrated upon an inland strike against the Con- 
federates' north-south railroad, instead of frittering away 
their strength in petty excursions against coastal towns. The 
Federals, however, never lost hope that Union men in the 
area would rise up and throw off the Confederate yoke as soon 
as the Yankee troops arrived. True, some nine out of thirty- 
five Confederates captured by the Navy at one point did pre- 


fer to remain with their captors rather than return home on 
parole; but for the most part the Unionist sentiment that 
flourished in the sound country was among Negroes. The 
Burnside-Goldsborough expedition has gone down in history 
as notable for the large number of blacks who flocked to the 
Federal camps. So many came that Roanoke Island itself had 
shortly to be converted into a colony for these fugitives. 

Hampton Roads continued to be the North Atlantic Block- 
ading Squadron's primary supply base, but its role was 
complicated by later developments. Confederate river craft 
darting out of the James or Elizabeth Rivers sometimes cap- 
tured unwary supply boats of the army at Fortress Monroe 
and Hampton Roads* When checked by Federal naval police 
they would simply retire to the cover of Confederate land 
batteries at SewelFs Point or Pig Point. On the Potomac 
below Alexandria, the Confederates continued to menace 
Federal river traffic to and from the capital. Nor could the 
Navy's repeated shelling permanently rid the river of these 
dangers, for McClellan refused to risk small army garrisons 
which might be captured by the Confederates. 

After the sinking of the stone fleet in Charleston Harbor, 
British and French warships put into Hampton Roads to con- 
vey consular mail to Norfolk. Their presence called for an 
exchange of civilities which took time from the flag officer's 
blockade duties and raised the ever-present danger of viola- 
tions of trust, when not only messages but persons were ille- 
gally smuggled through the blockade. Confederate floating 
mines necessitated nightly boat patrols around the large 
blockade ships. Some of these infernal devices were lifted out 
and taken to the Washington Navy Yard for Captain Dahl- 
gren to analyze. Another activity in Hampton Roads was the 
staging here of the expedition of Farragut and Butler whose 
as yet secret destination was New Orleans. Vessels from the 
Gulf squadrons having engine trouble would put in for re- 
pair. Occasionally the blockaders would have to serve as coast 
guards, as when the R. B. Forbes of Commander D. D. 
Porter's bomb fleet was wrecked off the Virginia capes. 

The Merrimack Threat m 

Early in March, everyone in the Hampton Roads area was 
keyed up to expect the long-awaited visit from the C.S.S. 
Virginia as the Confederates had newly christened the Merri- 
mack; when General McClellan received final approval to 
shift his offensive army from Washington to Fortress Monroe 
to proceed against Richmond via the Yorktown peninsula. It 
was this projected shift of military forces that caused Secre- 
tary Welles on March 6 to order the Monitor under Lieuten- 
ant John L. Worden to "come direct to Washington, anchor- 
ing below Alexandria." 1T 

The first Federal ironclad, fresh from her trials, cleared 
Sandy Hook at 4:00 P.M. the same day, towed by the steam 
tug Seth Low. At first in fair weather and on a smooth sea 
the Monitor made good progress, but next day in a moderate 
breeze her eccentricities as a seagoing ship were revealed. 
Small waves flowed across her deck, as Ericsson had intended 
they should, but larger ones dashed against the turret with 
sufficient violence to force out the oakum around the turret's 
base. Her executive officer later wrote: "The berth-deck hatch 
leaked in spite of all we could do, and the water came down 
under the turret like a waterfall. It would strike the pilot- 
house and go over the turret in beautiful curves, and it came 
through the narrow eyeholes in the pilot house with such 
force as to knock the helmsman completely round from the 
wheel. The waves also broke over the blower-pipes, and the 
water came down through them in such quantities that the 
belts of the blower-engines slipped, and the engines conse- 
quently stopped for lack of artificial draught, without which, 
in such a confined place, the fires could not get air for 
combustion." 18 Two engineers trying to repair the blowers 
were asphyxiated and had to be carried to the top of the tur- 
ret to be revived. The steam pumps could not be operated 
because the fires were low, and hand pumps lacked the force 
to throw the water out through the top of the turret, which 
was the only usable opening to the outside. Toward evening, 
wind and sea subsiding, the engines once more were started. 
Yet after midnight, in passing over a shoal, they again hit 


rough water. They spent the greater part of the night plug- 
ging leaks, but found smooth water again just before daylight. 

The Monitor passed Cape Henry at 4:00 P.M. on Satur- 
day, March 8, and as she headed westward into the entrance 
of Chesapeake Bay she heard the booming of heavy guns in 
Hampton Roads thirty miles off. 

At 12:45 P.M. on the same day the blockade vessels in 
Hampton Roads had discovered what appeared to be three 
small Confederate steamers coming out past Sewell's Point. A 
few minutes later, when the new arrivals shifted course and 
steered across the roads toward Newport News, it had become 
apparent that one of them, which resembled a barracks roof 
submerged to the eaves and surmounted by a large smoking 
funnel, was the Merrimack (Virginia). 

Although Flag Officer Goldsborough himself was in the 
North Carolina sounds, the trap he had devised now closed 
in on the Confederate ironclad. 

Two heavy ships, the Minnesota and the Roanoke, decks 
cleared for action and steam up continuously during the past 
month, left their stations under Fortress Monroe and fol- 
lowed the Merrimack to cut off her escape and to bring her 
between their own guns and those of the sailing ships Cum- 
berland and Congress that were stationed in the mouth of the 
James River off Newport News. As the Roanoke's main shaft 
was broken, she blew off steam through her exhaust valves 
to deceive the enemy, while being hauled toward the scene 
of impending action by tugs. 19 

The Confederate ironclad under Flag Officer Franklin 
Buchanan had been hurried into action. Workmen had been 
busy on board her as far down as Craney Island. Her crews 
were still new to the ship, undrilled at the guns. Her engines 
had scarcely been turned over. She was so short of ammuni- 
tion that Secretary Mallory had advised Buchanan to use his 
ram as much as possible. Buchanan headed straight for the 
Cumberland and the Congress. 

About two o'clock when the Merrimack came within range, 
the Cumberland, the Congress, and the Army's shore bat- 

The Merrimack Threat 113 

teries at Newport News opened fire. The ironclad, without 
veering from her chosen track toward the Cumberland, ac- 
knowledged the fire with her bow gun and the action became 
general. For fifteen minutes, while the Merrimack covered 
the last mile and a half, shot o the heaviest caliber struck her 
slanted, tallow-greased casemate and glanced off. Futile 
Federal projectiles ricochetted in every direction across the 
entrance to the James. At 2:30 P.M. the Merrimack' $ cast-iron 
beak, driven at four to five knots, plunged into the Cumber- 
land's starboard bow. Captain Buchanan heard the under- 
water crash above the roaring cannonade. Her metal prow 
was wrenched off when the Merrimack backed free and went 
down with her victim, which sankas Captain Buchanan 
admiringly phrased it * 'gallantly fighting her guns as long as 
they were above water." 20 

Leaving the Cumberland on the bottom, with masts jutting 
above the surface and flag still flying, the Merrimack next 
opened fire on the Congress. She was joined now by C.S.S. 
Yorktown and Jamestown, which, coming out from the James 
River, also fired on the Congress and the Minnesota, which 
by now had run on the Middle Ground shoal. Toward three 
o'clock the Congress hoisted her jib and sheeted home her top- 
sails, but progressed only a ship's length when she too 
grounded on the sandbanks south of the entrance to the 
James. In this situation, with no relief in sight, the surviving 
officers of the Congress at 4:00 P.M. struck her colors and 
hoisted a white flag at the gaff. 

The Merrimack by now having executed a wide-radius 
turn, Buchanan ordered Lieutenant Commander Parker of 
the C.S.S. Beaufort to take possession of the Congress, secure 
her officers as prisoners, allow the crew to land, and burn the 
ship. Parker ran alongside the Congress and received on board 
Commander William Smith and Lieutenant Pendergrast, who 
handed over the ship's ensign in token of surrender, along 
with their own side arms. While the Federal officers, now 
prisoners, returned on board the Congress to get off the 
wounded, the Confederate vessels were fired upon both by 


Federal soldiers on shore and by gun crews on the Congress 
who were yet ignorant of the vessel's surrender. Buchanan 
himself became so enraged at this " treachery " that he leaped 
up on top of the Merrimack' s casemate to protest and was 
himself drilled through the thigh by a Minie ball. He fell 
back into his impregnable iron fortress and ordered the 
Congress to be burned with heated shot and incendiary shell. 
The Federal batteries at Newport News, having exhausted 
their powder supply, were "silenced/' a large Federal trans- 
port alongside the wharf was blown up, a schooner was sunk, 
and another was captured by the Confederate mosquito craft 
and taken to Norfolk. 

With the Congress in flames, the wounded Buchanan 
turned over command of the Merrimack to his executive 
officer, Lieutenant Catesby Jones, and the victorious ironclad 
at 7:00 P.M. set her course for Norfolk. 

Panic now swept the surviving Federal blockade ships. The 
sailing frigate Roanoke., with three tugs dragging her up 
North Channel toward the battle scene, ran aground, as did 
the Minnesota and the St. Lawrence. What saved all three of 
these vessels was the fact that the Merrimack elected to re- 
turn home via the deeper passage to the south of Middle 
Ground. The victorious Confederates looked upon these 
wooden Yankee pachyderms as fat prizes to be seized on the 

The flames of the Congress, dying relic of a departed era, 
gave an awesome light to Hampton Roads until 1:00 A.M., 
when her magazines blew. Then dark came quickly. 


The Monitor 
and the Merrimack 


had communicated with Washington by dispatch boat up the 
Potomac, or by bay line steamer from Old Point Comfort to 
Baltimore and thence by wire to Washington. In February 
of 1862, with the Merrimack' s emergence imminent and 
McClellan's shift to Fortress Monroe in the offing, wires were 
strung from Delaware to Cape Charles, from which point a 
submarine cable was being laid to Old Point Comfort. The 
laying of the cable was not completed until 4:00 P.M. on 
Sunday, March 9. Until that hour, then, Lincoln and his 
Cabinet of necessity must sweat it out with only the frighten- 
ing news of the day before to plague them. 

For so kinetic and vividly imaginative an individual as 
Stanton, the suspense of this day became well-nigh unbear- 
able. In his alarm, he foresaw the Merrimack compelling the 
surrender of Fortress Monroe and the naval craft in its vicin- 
ity, and possibly before nightfall ascending the Potomac to 
threaten Washington. 1 Only recently had Stanton succeeded 
to the office of Secretary of War, and already he was fighting 
McClellan as well as the Confederate foe, his nerves were 
on edge, his disposition was sour. Gideon Welles, on the 
contrary, prided himself on being cool while under stress 
and on this day was as silent as Stanton was vocal. En route to 
the White House on this black Sunday, Welles had stopped 



at St. John's Church to inform Commodore Smith, whose son 
had commanded the Congress^ of yesterday's disasters, and 
the rest o the day Welles was haunted by Smith's instinctive 
premonition (later proved correct) that his son Joe was dead. 
Seward, who feared difficulty with foreign nations i the 
Merrimack had raised the blockade, was without his usual 
bounce, "rendered more timid," Welles surmised, "by the 
opinion and alarm of Stanton." 2 

Lincoln, like Stanton, paced the floor and went frequently 
to the window to gaze down the Potomac, as though expect- 
ing the Merrimack to arrive and shell the White House. At 
length the restless President drove to the navy yard to enquire 
of Dahlgren whether the Merrimack could ascend the Poto- 
mac. Dahlgren thought she might have difficulty getting 
across Kettle Bottom Shoals. Lincoln then asked a pilot who 
said that she could come over them, so the President was left 
in as great uncertainty as before. 

The Secretary of War, disregarding proprieties in dealing 
with a sister service, ordered Dahlgren to load canalboats 
with stone and tow them to the Kettle Bottoms ready to block 
the channel if the Merrimack should appear. Lest the dread 
ironclad proceed to New York and other cities and "lay them 
under contribution," Stanton telegraphed a warning to the 
governors of New York, Massachusetts, and Maine: "The 
opinion of the naval officers here is that the Merrimack will 
not venture to sea, but they advise that immediate prepara- 
tions be made to guard against the danger to our ports." s 

Stanton questioned Welles about the Ericsson battery, and 
when he learned that the Monitor carried only two guns "his 
look of incredulity and contempt" went beyond Welles's 
power to describe. In the belief that the Hampton Roads 
disaster would have to be retrieved by the country's best 
brains outside of the Navy Department, the distraught Secre- 
tary of War dispatched an emergency plea for a number of 
prominent citizens of New York to consult together secretly 
as a committee "to devise the best plan of speedily accom- 
plishing the capture or destruction of the Merrimack" 4 

The Monitor and the Merrimack 


HAMPTON ROADS, first battleground of ironclad war- 

Meanwhile, just after the Merrimack's destructive raid on 
the previous afternoon, the Monitor entered Chesapeake Bay 
and proceeded slowly across the thirty-mile stretch toward 
Hampton Roads. While she was still under tow, her canvas 
shelter was removed from over the turret; blower pipes and 
funnels were unshipped and stowed below. At 9:00 P.M., 
stripped for action, she hove to alongside the Roanoke to 
report to the senior officer. Captain John Marston directed 
Worden to go to the aid of the battered and wounded Min- 
nesota,, which was now fast aground off Newport News. 

Obtaining a pilot, Worden cast off the tow and proceeded 
under his own power toward the Minnesota, which was soon 
visible in the light from the burning Congress. Several tugs 
were trying to pull the Minnesota free at 2:00 A.M. when the 
Monitor arrived, but the big frigate's hull, having recoiled 
under her broadsides, had worked itself into a cradle of mud, 


and was there held as in a vacuum. When Worden brought 
the Ericsson battery alongside, Captain Van Brunt and all on 
board the Minnesota felt vastly relieved. 

At dawn the Merrimack^ with her paddle-wheel consorts, 
again emerged from Elizabeth River and headed toward the 
Minnesota^ which, as daylight increased, was revealed to be 
in her old position. The shores of the Confederate side of the 
Roads were lined with sightseers from Norfolk. Federal troops 
at Newport News cheered the tiny Monitor as it moved out 
from the shadow o the giant blockader. As the raf tlike new- 
comer steamed toward the roof-shaped victor of the previous 
day, the watchers from both shores groped for words to 
describe her. To a Confederate officer on the C.S.S. Patrick 
Henry, she seemed "an immense shingle floating on the water, 
with a gigantic cheese box rising from its center; no sails, no 
wheels, no smokestack, no guns." 5 Other Southerners thought 
she might be a water tank on a raft or a floating magazine 
come to supply the doomed Minnesota. 

But these surmises were eliminated when shortly after 
eight o'clock the Monitor advanced to meet the Merrimack. 
To Captain Van Brunt of the Minnesota,, the contrast be- 
tween the two ironclads was that of "a pigmy and a giant." 
"Gun after gun was fired by the Monitor,, which was returned 
with whole broadsides from the rebels with no more effect, 
apparently, than so many pebblestones thrown by a child. 
After a while they commenced maneuvering, and we could 
see the little battery point her bow for the rebels, with the 
intention, as I thought, of sending a shot through her bow 
porthole; then she would shoot by her and rake her through 
her stern. In the meantime the rebel was pouring broadside 
after broadside, but almost all her shot flew over the little 
submerged propeller, and when they struck the bombproof 
tower the shot glanced off without producing any effect." 6 

Her pilothouse, the Monitor's most difficult and the most 
vulnerable part, was a square box rising five feet above the 
deck about fifty feet forward of the turret, and connected with 
the latter by voice tube. This brain center of the ship barely 

The Monitor and the Memmack 1 19 

large enough to hold captain, pilot, and helmsman was a 
crib of nine- by twelve-inch iron logs neatly mortised at the 
corners and covered by a heavy lid. Eyeslits a quarter-inch 
deep permitted conning and steering. As the voice tube to 
the turret broke early in the action, Captain Worden had to 
transmit orders to the gunners through two volunteer lands- 
men unaccustomed to naval idiom. 

Lieutenant S. D. Greene, who was in charge of the turret, 
had to be careful not to fire on the vessel's own pilothouse. 
He had to sight the Merrimack target through the narrow 
margin of clearance between gunbarrel and edges of the port, 
and to pull the lanyard while the turret was in motion, firing 
the guns "on the fly." Once the heavy turret had been started 
on its "revolving journey" it could not be readily halted or 
reversed. Thus it was scarcely possible to take deliberate aim, 
to try, for instance, to place every shot at the same point on 
the Merrimack so as to crush through her shield. The engage- 
ment began with the ironclad duelists a mile apart. By mutual 
consent the Union David and the Confederate Goliath closed 
in and fought most of the time at ranges of less than a hun- 
dred yards. Sometimes they grated ponderously against each 
other. At these short distances the Monitor's problem in sight- 
ing her guns was minimized, and this was well, for the bear- 
ing marks that had been chalked on the deck were obliterated 
shortly after the turret began revolving. For a while Lieu- 
tenant Greene was perplexed not to have these marks indicat- 
ing starboard, port, bow, and stern. "I would continually ask 
the captain, "How does the Merrimack bear?' He replied, 'On 
the starboard beam/ or 'On the port-quarter' as the case 
might be. Then the difficulty was to determine the direction 
of the starboard-beam, or port-quarter, or any other bear- 
ing." * 

Sixteen gunners served the Monitor's two eleven-inch 
Dahlgren guns. These famous naval cannon, because of their 
shape called "soda-water bottles/' operated on special plat- 
forms that Ericsson had devised to absorb their recoil. When 


the guns were withdrawn into the turret for recharging, metal 
port stoppers like pendulums swung down to close the ports. 

The men in the Monitor's turret were deafened by the 
thunder of their own guns and by the clang of the Merri- 
mackfs projectiles against their revolving citadel, but soon 
they breathed easily when they found Ericsson's armor to be 
shotproof . The laminated walls of the turret were built up of 
eight thicknesses of one-inch wrought-iron plates, standing 
vertically with overlapping joints and firmly riveted together. 
Glancing blows from the Merrimack scarcely scratched this 
armor, while the heaviest straight-on shots punched indenta- 
tions up to two-and-one-half inches deep, but did not crack 
the plates. The only casualties in the turret were three men 
who leaned against the armor when it was struck. These were 
temporarily stunned and had to be carried below. 

In a battle lasting four hours, the Monitor fired forty-three 
projectiles. As storage space inside the turret for ready am- 
munition was limited, the vessel had to haul off across a 
stretch of shallow water where the deep-draft Merrimack 
could not follow. A hole in the turret floor had to be brought 
to rest over a scuttle so that a fresh supply of powder and 
shot could be handed up from the magazine below. 

During such a recess the Merrimack turned her attention 
once more to the Minnesota which was still aground. "Earlier 
in the morning she had put a i i-inch shot under my counter 
near the water line," reported Captain Van Brunt, "and 
now, on her second approach, I opened upon her with all my 
broadside guns and lo-inch pivot a broadside which would 
have blown out of the water any timber-built ship in the 
world. She returned my fire with her rifled bow gun with a 
shell which passed through the chief engineer's stateroom, 
through the engineers' mess room, amidships, and burst in 
the boatswain's room, tearing four rooms all into one in its 
passage, exploding two charges of powder, which set the ship 
on fire, but it was promptly extinguished by a party headed 
by my first lieutenant." 8 

The Minnesota's marine officer stationed on the poop re- 

The Monitor and the Merrimack 121 

ported that at least fifty of his vessel's solid shot struck the 
Merrimack's slanting sides without effect. 

When the Monitor returned, the Merrimack attempted to 
ram, although her cast-iron prow had gone down in the wreck 
of the Cumberland. The Goliath was ponderous in contrast 
to the David (263 feet long against 172 and in draft 23 against 
ioi/0 , so that Worden was able by putting his helm hard 
over to avoid a direct blow. The Merrimack succeeded only 
in slicing her wooden stern across the sharp edge of the 
Monitors side armor and starting a leak in her own hull. In 
attempting to ram the Merrimack in return, Worden found 
that the Monitor was only relatively nimble. He aimed toward 
his opponent's after quarter, hoping to crash her rudder and 
disable her steering gear, but he missed and slid past the 
target only three feet away. 

The Merrimack now grounded in shoal water and, during 
the fifteen minutes when she was struggling to free herself, a 
i8o-pound solid shot was planted by the Monitor in the stern 
of the Confederate's casemate. This shot ripped off some 
plating and splintered some of the wooden backing, but did 
not break through. Had the Monitor been able to land other 
shots in the same area, she would doubtless have pierced the 
Merrimack's shield. Or this shot alone might have broken 
through had it been propelled by a heavier powder charge. 
The standard powder charge used on board the Monitor on 
this momentous day was only fifteen pounds. Ironically 
enough, it was discovered later that the same guns could fire 
up to forty-five pounds with safetyl 

The Merrimack, after jerking herself off the mudbank, from 
close range concentrated her attention upon the Monitor's 
pilothouse. About 11:30 A.M. a shell fired from a gun not ten 
yards away struck the pilothouse, jolting askew the iron slab 
that formed the top and cracking one of the nine- by twelve- 
inch beams. 

Lieutenant Worden was conning the ship immediately op- 
posite the point of impact. Minute grains of dust were blown 
through the quarter-inch eyeslit into his eyes. "The flood of 


light rushing through the top of the pilothouse, now partly 
open, caused Worden, blind as he was, to believe that the 
pilothouse was seriously injured, if not destroyed; he there- 
fore gave orders to put the helm to starboard and 'sheer 
off/ " 9 Lieutenant Greene, called from the turret, found the 
injured captain at the foot o the ladder leading to the pilot- 
house, and helped him to his cabin before himself taking 
control of the ship. After twenty minutes Greene steered the 
Monitor out of the shallows but toward an enemy who 
thought the fight was over and had set course for vital docking 
at Norfolk. 

If, during this interval, the Merrimack had once again fired 
upon the Minnesota, Captain Van Brunt had planned to 
abandon his ship. Or if the Merrimack had been able to 
accept the Monitor's belated offer to renew the engagement, 
she might have found the altered situation very much in her 
favor. In charge of the turret, after Greene had succeeded 
Worden, was Alban C. Stimers, who was not a naval officer 
but a civil engineer serving on board as a technician operat- 
ing the turret-turning mechanism. 

The battle ended with neither side scoring an appreciable 
advantage. "We had run into the Monitor,, causing us to leak, 
and had received a shot from her which came near disabling 
the machinery, but continued to fight her until she was 
driven into shoal water," explained the Merrimack' 's acting 
captain, Lieutenant Catesby Jones; "The Minnesota appeared 
so badly damaged that we did not believe that she would 
ever move again. The pilots refused to place us any nearer to 
her (they had once run us aground). About 12 [o'clock] the 
pilots declared that if we did not go up to Norfolk then, that 
we could not do so until the next day." 10 

Thus, the historic first contest between ironclad battleships, 
after four hours of thunderous but relatively harmless clatter 
of iron on iron, ended without decision. Each side claimed the 
mctory, and each in a different sense was justified. 

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox had come down from 
Washington to witness the epochal event, and was one of the 

The Monitor and the Merrlmack 123 

first to go on board the Monitor, as cheer on cheer resounded 
from the Federal ships and forts. Fox sent the injured Worden 
to Washington on a tug and after the new telegraph cable 
had been connected, he sent over it the historic dispatch to 
the Secretary of the Navy: la - 

Headquarters, Fortress Monroe 6:45 P.M. 

The Monitor arrived at 10 P.M. last night and went immediately 
to the protection of the Minnesota, lying aground just below 
Newport News. 

At 7 A.M. today the Merrimack^ accompanied by two wooden 
steamers and several tugs, stood out toward the Minnesota and 
opened fire. 

The Monitor met them at once and opened her fire, when all 
the enemy's vessels retired, excepting the Merrimack. These two 
ironclad vessels fought part of the time touching each other, 
from 8 A.M. to noon, when the Merrimack retired. Whether she is 
injured or not it is impossible to say. Lieutenant J. L. Worden, 
who commanded the Monitor, handled her with great skill, as- 
sisted by Chief Engineer Stimers. Lieutenant Worden was injured 
by the cement from the pilot house being driven into his eyes, 
but I trust not seriously. The Minnesota kept up a continuous 
fire and is herself somewhat injured. 

She was moved considerably today, and will probably be off 
tonight. The Monitor is uninjured, and ready at any moment to 
repel another attack. 

G. V. Fox 
Assistant Secretary 
G. Welles 
Secretary Navy 

Two months of uneasy stalemate followed the battle. The 
Merrimack was put in dry dock to receive a new ram, a skin 
of metal across her bow, and new plates at the water line. The 
state of her preparations was so closely guarded that the 
Federals kept outside Hampton Roads with steam up and 
men at battle stations momentarily expecting her to return. 
A sloping metal shield with solid wood backing was built 
around the Monitor's pilothouse to cause shot to glance from 


it. Several of the heavy frigates upon their release from 
grounding were sent to Northern shipyards and replaced by 
lighter gunboats with powerful rifled ordnance. For the few 
army supply ships that were allowed to enter the strategic 
area between Fortress Monroe and Newport News, an un- 
usual number of tugs was held in readiness to pull them out 
of danger should the Merrimack reappear. During this period 
of watchful waiting, the Monitor took station between Fort- 
ress Monroe and the Rip Raps to prevent the Merrimack 
from getting out into the lower Chesapeake Bay where Mc- 
Clellan's transports and supply vessels were anchored. Bush- 
nelTs ironclad battery, named the Galena., was finished in the 
New York yard and rushed to the Monitor's side, as was also 
the lightly armored battery of E. A. Stevens known as the 

Both Federals and Confederates improvised novel methods 
for crippling each other's ironclad. Ladders to enable boarders 
to scale the Merrimack's tallow greased sides, hoses o scald- 
ing steam, hand grenades to be tossed inside her casemate or 
down her stack were matched on the Confederate side by wet 
sailcloth to stuff down the Monitor's smokestacks, wedges to 
scotch her turret, and sheets to throw over the low pilothouse 
to blind her helmsman. 

General McClellan, although he feared the power of the 
Merrimack to disrupt his communications on the Yorktown 
peninsula, nevertheless followed through with his plans. 
Perhaps overpradently, he accepted the continued threat of 
the Merrimack and landed at Old Point Comfort, anchoring 
his ships outside of Hampton Roads where they could be 
protected by Fortress Monroe, the Monitor, and the battery 
on the Rip Raps known as Fort Wool When he had difficulty 
turning the Confederate defenses at Yorktown, he called for 
the Monitor to bombard the shore batteries at Yorktown, but 
Fkg Officer Goldsborough was under strict orders from 
Lincoln himself that he was not to risk the Monitor against 
any Confederate shore positions until after the Merrimack 
had been destroyed. 

The Monitor and the Merrimack 125 

On April 11 the Merrimack showed herself off SewelFs 
Point, accompanied by the Jamestown, the Yorktown, and 
four smaller vessels. There was instantaneous activity in the 
upper roads. ' 'Steam tugs ran whistling and screaming about, 
towing strings of vessels behind them, whilst sloops, schooners, 
and brigs, taking advantage of what air there was got up sail 
and moved out of harm's way." 12 The Monitor with steam 
up and in fighting trim lay quietly near her usual anchorage 
and was joined by the armored Naugatuck. Had the Merri- 
mack proceeded across the Roads toward Newport News, the 
Monitor would have interposed to cut off her retreat to Nor- 
folk, or had she tried to get at the shipping in the lower bay 
there would have been a fight. But the Confederates merely 
staged a show, remaining close by the Confederate land bat- 
teries at Sewell's Point. And while the ironclads assiduously 
tried to outface each other, the Yorktown with bold impu- 
dence side-wheeled across the Roads and captured three of 
McClellan's small transports that were caught in a bight 
without wind or tugs. 

Time, however, was on the side of the Monitor,, which in 
this particular game had only to prolong the stalemate in 
order to win. The Vanderbilt and several other fast passenger 
liners were strengthened as rams and sent to operate in con- 
junction with the Monitor. The ironclad Galena, built by 
Cornelius Bushnell who had introduced Ericsson's model, 
joined the Monitor on April 24. In vain, the Confederates, 
deficient in resources, tried to scrape together enough iron to 
plate a second vessel at Norfolk. But, with McClellan finally 
advancing toward Richmond, Norfolk's days as a Confederate 
stronghold were numbered. 

As early as March 24, only a week after the first of Mc- 
Clellan's troops had arrived at Fortress Monroe, the com- 
mandant of the Norfolk Navy Yard was ordered by the 
authorities in Richmond to push work on the second iron- 
clad at night even if they had to use girls to hold candles for 
the workmen, since the loss of Norfolk within twenty days 
was expected. Two days later he was instructed: "Begin at 


once, without attracting special notice to the subject, to care- 
fully pack and get ready for transportation all the fine ma- 
chinery and tools not required for your operations in your 
workshops/' 13 The last of McGlellan's hundred thousand 
troops reached the peninsula by April 2. On May 4 the Con- 
federates abandoned Yorktown. McClellan trailed the re- 
treating garrison along the York River, with light gunboats 
scouting ahead as far as White House, Virginia. Almost im- 
mediately Confederate troops began evacuating Norfolk. In 
the disordered state of affairs, Commodore Tattnall, in 
command of the Merrimack, received conflicting orders to 
defend Norfolk and to prevent the Federal Navy from ascend- 
ing the James. And while he was debating where to take his 
cumbersome vessel, the Federal forces advanced upon Nor- 
folk and backed him up inside the Elizabeth River. 

President Lincoln came to Fortress Monroe a few days 
after the fall of Yorktown, imbued with the desire to push 
General McClellan and possibly Flag Officer Goldsborough 
also. When McClellan requested a naval reconnaissance up 
the James, Lincoln on May 7 directed Goldsborough: "If 
you have tolerable confidence that you can successfully con- 
tend with the Merrimack without the help of the Galena and 
two gunboats, send the Galena and two gunboats up the James 
River at once. Please report your action on this to me at once. 
I shall be found at General Wool's headquarters." 14 

Accordingly, the Galena^ the Aroostook, and the Port Royal 
were promptly dispatched up the James River. There they 
flushed and drove upstream the Confederate steamers James- 
town and Jorktown. Then after they had passed two land 
batteries without casualties, the Galena ran aground and 
stuck for thirty-six hours, before finally freeing herself and 
proceeding on up to Jamestown. 

Meanwhile, the President directed Goldsborough to send 
the Monitor toward Norfolk to bombard the Sewell's Point 
batteries and smoke out the Merrimack so that the ram vessels 
could get at her. The Monitor ^ with three other vessels, ap- 
proached the Elizabeth River and engaged Sewell's Point, 

The Monitor and the Merrimack 127 

while the fort at the Rip Raps also bombarded it from long 
range. On the tenth the Presidential steamer Baltimore came 
alongside the Monitor and Lincoln asked the latter's com- 
mander whether there would be any military impropriety in 
the Monitor's returning to SewelFs Point without prior orders 
from the flag officer. Commander Jeffers replied that it was 
necessary and proper for the flag officer to know that he had 
not acted without authority. Lincoln then assured Jeffers that 
he would notify Commodore Goldsborough and directed him 
to proceed on a reconnaissance of SewelFs Point to learn 
whether it had been reinforced or abandoned. When the 
works were found to have been abandoned, Lincoln caused 
General Wool's troops to be marched to Norfolk. 

Early on the eleventh, Craney Island having been evacu- 
ated, Commodore Tattnall set fire to the Merrimack and she 
blew up at 4:58 A.M. It was "one of the grandest sights ever 
seen/' officers on President Lincoln's boat reported. 15 

Lincoln, with Chase and Stanton, could not resist the urge 
to visit Norfolk. Picking up Commodore Goldsborough and 
accompanied by the Monitor and three gunboats, Mr. Lincoln 
proceeded up the Elizabeth River on the steamer Baltimore. 
As though fearful that the Confederates might return to 
recover the guns in the Norfolk batteries and Navy Yard, 
Lincoln ordered Goldsborough to collect all of these and 
have them removed to Fortress Monroe. As they proceeded 
through water littered with debris from the exploded Merri- 
mack, the flag officer fished up a length of yellow pine thought 
to have been a portion of her keel. This was eagerly split up 
and a section suitable for a walking stick was presented to 
the President, along with two Confederate flags picked up at 
Graney Island. The party arrived at Norfolk shortly before 

Lincoln did not go ashore, but surveyed the city from the 
vessel. "The President is a man of practical pluck, like Far- 
ragut, Du Pont, Porter, McClellan and Halleck," announced 
the New York Heraldj "and has more genuine fight in him 
than all the members of his cabinet put together." His visit, 


reported the same source, "is understood to have been for 
the purpose of directing in person, as Commander-in-Chief, 
the cooperation of the navy with the execution of the plans 

of Gen. McClellan The sailors all unite in saying he is 

'a trump/ and that he has at some time served an apprentice- 
ship on board ship, so much at home did he seem." Possibly 
taking his cue from the Commander-in-Chief himself, the 
Herald reporter concluded, "We have this rebellion upon the 
hip. That fact is patent to all the world. With that one little 
vessel-of-war, the Monitor, we have broken up all the navies 
of Europe " 16 

Certainly Lincoln was in high spirits on his return to 
Washington. In passing Kettle Bottom Shoals he jested about 
the canalboats that Stanton had prepared for sinking two 
months ago. "Oh, that is Stanton's navy," said he. "That is 
the fleet concerning which he and Mr. Welles became so 
excited in my room. Welles was incensed and opposed the 
whole scheme, and it has proved that Neptune was right. 
Stanton's navy is as useless as the paps of a man to a suckling 
child. There may be some show to amuse the child, but they 
are good for nothing for service." 17 

With the removal of the Merrimack as a threat to Mc- 
Clellan's operations on the peninsula, the Monitor joined the 
Galena^ the Naugatuck, and other ironclad gunboats for a 
quick thrust up the James River. The plan was to ascend to 
Richmond and by threatening bombardment to compel its 
surrender. McClellan, meanwhile, was moving up along the 
York River on the other side of the peninsula. At Drury's 
Bluff, eight miles short of Richmond, the Monitor and her 
consorts on May 15 found their passage blocked by sunken 
hulks and carefully built cribs of stone. Rifle pits along each 
shore forced all hands on the vessels to keep under cover, 
while heavy batteries on a cliff two hundred feet high rained 
conical, armor-piercing projectiles upon the gunboats. The 
ironclad Galena was riddled, with eighteen out of the twenty- 
eight shot that hit her penetrating, and she lost thirteen 
killed and eleven wounded. The Monitor,, advancing to shield 

The Monitor and the Merrimack 129 

the Galena, found that she could not sufficiently elevate her 
guns at close range and was compelled to retreat downstream. 
The Monitor , hit three times, suffered no injury. The burst- 
ing of her one-hundred-pounder Parrott rifle rendered the 
little Naugatuck useless. Had McClellan been able to attack 
the Confederate land batteries in conjunction with the naval 
assault some progress might have been made, but that had 
not been possible. 

The final chapter in the history of Ericsson's Monitor 
lacked the brilliance of the first. She remained in the James 
River throughout McClelland campaign there, as part of the 
James River Flotilla under Commodore Charles Wilkes, 
keeping open the army's communications below the Con- 
federate defense line. At the end of the year, while en route to 
the concentration of ironclads to attack Charleston, she 
foundered off Cape Hatteras. In her less than a year of active 
service, she had won a place in the history of navies and had 
rescued Lincoln's wooden Navy from the brink of disaster. 
Ericsson's magnificent pioneering, moreover, had done more 
than anything else to break the shackles of the past. Already 
in busy Yankee shipyards, several new classes of ironclad 
monitors were coming off the ways to change the character of 
the later naval fighting. 


Launching the New Orleans 


city of fabulous interest as keystone of the blockade in the 
Gulf, gate to the interior waterways of a continent, and the 
South's largest, richest, most cosmopolitan city. As the trad- 
ing outlet in peacetime for over three thousand miles of 
navigable waters, she required wharves along the entire seven- 
mile crescent of her levee to accommodate the hundreds of 
river steamboats and ocean-going craft that handled her 
freight lumber, grain, cattle, and hogs of the Middle West; 
turpentine, sugar, cotton of the Southern states. 

In the summer of 1861 Welles's strategy board, compiling 
useful blockade data on New Orleans' outlets to the sea, were 
awed by her manifold and devious entrances and exits. "It 
will be apparent to a careful reader of this memoir that New 
Orleans has so many outlets and channels of trade, less direct 
and convenient indeed than the river, but not less certain 
and practicable, that the blockade of the river does not close 
the trade of the port." x A hundred miles below New Orleans 
the river branches off in three directions, forming, from east 
to west, Pass a I/Outre, South Pass, and South West Pass, the 
first and last of which were practicable for heavy seagoing 
ships. But, aside from these river channels through the deltas, 
New Orleans had lateral outlets through Lake Pontchartrain 
on the east and Barataria Bay on the west, and through in- 


Launching the New Orleans Campaign 


lateral outlets to the sea through Lake Pontchartrain 
and Barataria Bay, as well as the Delta passes. The best 
way to seal the port of New Orleans to blockade run- 
ners was to capture it. 

numerable secondary inlets sprinkled all around the coast 
from the Lake Pontchartrain channel to Atchafalaya Bayou, 
a distance on the arc joining these eastern and western ex- 
tremities of 170 miles. 

Ultimately New Orleans itself had to be captured, but this, 
in the board's opinion, would require a large number of 
smaller, more powerfully armed gunboats than the Navy 
possessed in the summer of 1861, "a great many troops, and 
the conduct of sieges, and it will be accomplished with slow 
advances/' 2 After capturing the two masonry forts, a slow and 
bloody advance by the Army might be expected against any 
secondary positions between the forts and New Orleans, in 
which operations the naval ships would enfilade the Con- 
federate positions ahead of the troops. Two considerations 
deterred the board from recommending that a seagoing ex- 
pedition be undertaken in the near future. There was a 
chance that the War Department's campaign in the West 


might, with the help of fresh-water gunboats, take New Or- 
leans from above; and there were the ''nearer and more 
urgent*' salt-water operations against Hatteras Inlet and Port 
Royal to occupy the Navy's attention. 

The political situation in the Middle West, hoxvever, as 
Mr, Welles knew, was urgent, with the harvest approaching 
and the usual commercial outlets closed. Some positive action 
was essential. So the strategy board recommended, and the 
Secretary approved, two palliative measures: the seizing of 
Ship Island outside of Lake Pontchartrain and the capture of 
a point inside of the Mississippi River at the Head of the 
Passes to render the blockade of New Orleans more effective. 

Ship Island was an easy conquest for the blockaders as it 
was but halfheartedly held. The Confederates themselves 
early in the war had burned its fort and barracks and, when 
they later reconsidered their hasty action and began to rebuild 
their defenses, a few broadsides from the blockader Massa- 
chusetts so discouraged them that they abandoned the island 
permanently. 3 From the middle of September the Navy used 
the fine anchorage in the lee of Ship Island as a refuge from 
storms, but not for several months did they make use of the 
island as a naval base. On November 2, when the first con- 
tingent of General B. F. Butler's troops was ready to advance 
down the coast for another "Hatteras'* expedition, those 
troops were sent to Ship Island as an advanced staging area 
for operations in the Gulf. 

The seizure of a position inside the Mississippi River at 
the Head of the Passes was also easy enough, since there were 
no Confederate shore defenses below Forts Jackson and 
St. Philip. But thus to apply a tourniquet to the great artery 
of the river would be to invite the most determined opposi- 
tion from New Orleans. The ships necessary to maintain such 
a position, thought Du Pont's strategy board, ought actually 
to be powerful enough to run the gantlet of the forts above 
and attack New Orleans; "here, if anywhere," the board 
advised, "is the place for ironclad ships/' 4 But such vessels 
not existing in October of 1861, the Gulf blockaders sent into 

Launching the New Orleans Campaign 133 

the river two inefficient sailing sloops that had to be towed 
and one steamer to set up the interior base. 

The steamer Richmond,, shepherding the sailing sloops 
Vincennes and .Preble, early in October entered the river and 
began unloading lumber and other gear inside the river at the 
Head of the Passes. While so employed they were kept under 
surveillance by a Confederate river boat which lobbed occa- 
sional shells at them from a range outside that of the Federals' 
guns. The Richmond hurriedly sent to Tortugas for long- 
range rifles, but before these guns could be received the Con- 
federates launched a fierce night attack. The Richmond was 
caught by surprise while coaling. As she was struggling to 
unleash herself from the collier, the Richmond was butted by 
the Confederate iron-sheathed ram Manassas and had three of 
her planks stove in under water. Several Confederate fire rafts 
joined together by chains and, stretching across the river 
blazing f earsomely, were now pushed downstream toward the 
Federal intruders. In the contrary currents the infernos ran 
afoul of snags and driftwood along the bank and harmlessly 
burnt themselves out. The shallower Preble escaped, but the 
Richmond and the Vincennes, in their haste to clear out 
of the river, grounded on the bar at South West Pass, where for 
two hours they were kept under fire by the long-range guns of 
the Confederates. They were saved from destruction only by 
the excessive range and the almost juvenile marksmanship of 
their assailants. 

During the confusion while grounded and unable to reply 
to the Confederates' fire, the commander of the Vincennes 
heaved his thirty-two-pounder guns overboard and, mis- 
interpreting a signal from the Richmond, abandoned his ship. 
Fortunately the slow match which he had lighted to explode 
his magazines fluttered out and he was able later to reboard 
his vessel, but not until after he had become a laughingstock 
and made the Gulf Blockading Squadron appear ridiculous. 

Reports on the affair reached Washington, along with the 
excitingly good news of Du Font's victory at Port Royal, and 
Lincoln's Navy Department was convinced that the time was 


right to launch an attack on New Orleans. Du Font's success 
afforded grounds for believing that the navy's wooden ships 
were capable o executing a quick thrust up the river past 
the forts. Assistant Secretary Fox declared it feasible, as did 
Commander David D. Porter, newly arrived from the Gulf. 

Porter was an old cruiser in the lower Mississippi. During 
a slack season after the Mexican War, he had obtained leave 
of absence and commanded a mail steamer making regular 
trips to New Cleans, and he claimed to know "every inch of 
the river." 5 The energetic Porter, surprised and pleased to 
find that Welles would listen to him after he had absconded 
with the Powhatan to Fort Pickens, gave a graphic description 
of conditions of the blockade off the deltas, and, when Welles 
mentioned to him the department's secret plan to organize an 
expedition to take New Orleans, Porter entered into the 
project with zest and relish. To further insure the success of 
the navy's thrust past the forts, Porter suggested a prelimi- 
nary bombardment by regular army mortars mounted on 

Lincoln, Welles, Fox, Porter, and General McGlellan met 
in a secret conference at the latter's home on November 15, 
1861, to debate the reasons for and against a joint army-navy 
expedition to New Orleans. McClellan, newly installed as 
general-in-chief and in command of all the armies, was at this 
time concentrating upon building up the Army of the 
Potomac. He stated that fifty thousand troops would be re- 
quired to lay siege to Forts Jackson and St. Philip and that 
so many could not be spared. Porter contended that only 
sufficient troops to occupy New Orleans were required, and 
explained his plan for bombarding beforehand with thirteen- 
inch mortars. Once the fleet had run the gantlet and cut off 
the forts from New Orleans, the forts must shrivel like fruits 
on a severed vine. The bombardment idea appealed so 
strongly to McClellan that he "came readily into the arrange- 
ment" and agreed to furnish ten thousand troops to accom- 
pany the Navy in addition to the two thousand belonging to 
General Butler that had already been sent to Ship Island. 6 

Launching the New Orleans Campaign 

Whether even General Butler was informed at this early time 
that the destination of the expedition was New Orleans is not 
clear. Welles in his diary noted that this top-secret informa- 
tion was "withheld from the War Department [now under 
Simon Cameron] and all others . . . because secrets could not 
then be kept but inevitably leaked out, contractors became 
importunate, and the Rebels often were forewarned." 7 The 
dynamic Butler, moreover, was now in New England raising 
troops in competition with the state officials, and managing 
through a personal feud to stir up a mare's nest over states 
rights. McClellan was doubtless happy to find a place for him 
so far from the national capital, where, as Welles phrased it, 
Butler's * 'energy, activity, and impulsive force might be em- 
ployed in desultory aquatic and shore duty in concert with 
the navy." 8 

Gideon Welles, having scrapped the practice of awarding 
important billets to the hoaryheaded according to rank, ap- 
pointed young Porter as commander of the Mortar Flotilla, 
and combed the roster to pick the right officer to head the 
naval contingent. Welles had studied the list, but each time 
he had passed over the names of Southern officers as "par- 
ticularly suspect/' Now he felt he might trust a Southern-bred 
officer whose loyalty had remained unshaken through eight 
months of war. The Secretary was especially attracted to Cap- 
tain David Glasgow Farragut, foster son of the famous Com- 
modore David Porter. Since his boyhood battle experiences 
in the War of 1812, Farragut had earned a modest reputation 
as a gunnery officer and had established the West Coast navy 
yard at Mare Island. Upon the secession of Virginia he had 
promptly abandoned his home in Norfolk and moved to 
New York City, where, after six months, he had been given 
responsible duty on the retiring board. Impressed by Far- 
ragut's decisiveness in breaking off his Southern connections, 
Welles inquired among naval officers as to Farragut's ability 
to head "a great and active campaign against Mobile or some 
other point."* 9 Most officers, while speaking well of Farragut 
as a person, questioned his power as an administrator. Du 


Pont thought him "a fair fighting officer, of ordinary stand- 
ing" but "doubted if he was equal to the position." Smith of 
Yards and Docks considered him "a bold, impetuous man, of 
a great deal of courage and energy/' but felt that "his capa- 
bilities and power to command a squadron was a subject to be 
determined only by trial." 10 Porter, whose family connec- 
tions with Farragut were closer than those of anyone else 
consulted, expressed confidence in him, and, since Porter 
himself was to have a conspicuous part in the expedition, his 
word carried weight. After Porter and Fox had sounded Far- 
ragut unofficially, Gideon Welles invited him to his home 
for a delightful and heartwarming chat, after which, sure of 
his man, the Secretary secretly revealed to Farragut that his 
real destination was New Orleans, and announced to the 
press the selection of Farragut as flag officer of the newly 
formed Western Gulf Blockading Squadron. 

Farragut at sixty, with a boyish vivacity that belied his 
forty-nine years in the Navy, on December 21, 1861, wrote a 
note to his wife: "Keep your lips closed, and burn my letters; 
for perfect silence is to be observed the first injunction of the 
Secretary. 1 am to have a flag in the Gulf, and the rest depends 
upon myself. Keep calm and silent. I shall sail in three 
weeks." X1 

Farragut departed from Hampton Roads in the flagship 
Hartford on February 2. He had been briefly delayed by ice 
in the Delaware River but had not wasted the time. Since he 
expected to pass so close to the Confederate forts that the men 
in his tops would be able to fire down upon the enemy and 
in turn be exposed to the musketry of the latter, he had 
mounted extra guns in the tops, along with a shield of quarter- 
inch boiler iron to protect his men. "This is a little kink of 
mine/' he explained to Dahlgren, "but if it saves one man 
only, I will consider myself well repaid for the trouble; should 
a ball occasionally pierce the iron, they must take their 
chances/* 12 His arrival at Ship Island on the twentieth was 
without fanfare. He busied himself with organizing the 
Western Gulf Blockading Squadron and did not advance 

Launching the New Orleans Campaign 

immediately toward the deltas, since he wished to prolong 
the doubt in Confederate minds as to the precise point of his 

Commander Porter sailed from Washington in the Harriet 
Lane on February 1 1. For three hectic months he had shuttled 
between New York and Washington organizing the Mortar 
Flotilla: purchasing twenty schooners, ordering thirteen-inch 
mortars from Pittsburgh, mounting the mortars as they ar- 
rived at the navy yard in New York, assembling seven steamers 
to tow the floating mortar platforms into the Mississippi, 
recruiting officers and men from the merchant service. "Black 
Dave 1 ' Porter moved in the vortex of administrative hubbub 
that delighted his soul, and had already brought order out 
of chaos when he reached Key West on February 28. 

Here, while waiting for his steamers, he divided the mortar 
schoolers into three groups under Lieutenants Watson Smith, 
W. W. Queen, and K. R. Breese, and set them to practice 
firing at barrel targets. Several of the mortar captains, who 
chafed under naval discipline, Porter clapped in irons and 
gave their places to other men. After a week of shaking down, 
he was convinced that he had the finest organization in the 
world, and, although but four of his steamers had now ar- 
rived, he pushed on to Ship Island. As he would learn later, 
two of his flotilla's steamers, Clifton and R. J?. Forbes,, had 
collided in fog off the Virginia capes. The latter, having to be 
beached, was wrecked, while the ex-Manhattan ferryboat 
Clifton was delayed by a trip to Baltimore for repairs. 

General Butler was the last of the three chief leaders of the 
New Orleans expedition to get away and his near failure to 
do so jeopardized the success of the undertaking. The embar- 
kation of the second contingent of Butler's troops in January 
was the moment chosen by Governor Andrew of Massachu- 
setts for a final showdown with General Butler. Through the 
Massachusetts Senators, Governor Andrew hurled loose 
charges of corruption and malpractice on the part of Butler 
during his three months of recruiting. Governor Andrew 
sent his state adjutant general, and finally went himself, to 


Washington to belabor the President and the War Depart- 
ment. The chief difficulty concerned the appointment of 
officers for the regiments Butler had raised in Massachusetts. 
Butler insisted on rewarding with officer billets his Demo- 
cratic political friends who had helped him with recruiting; 
while Governor Andrew, an abolitionist-Republican, de- 
clined to sign their commissions in the belief that they were 
not "proper" representatives of the state. From Secretary 
Cameron the redoubtable Butler had obtained an appoint- 
ment to command the so-called "Department of New Eng- 
land" a Federal post which, as Butler contended, made him 
coordinate with, rather than subordinate to, the Governor, 
and this maneuver by the sharp lawyer general had antago- 
nized the governor all the more. Lincoln made a personal 
appeal to Andrew to sign the commissions so as not to hold 
up Butler's army, and, when the governor refused, he had the 
adjutant general of the United States quietly issue Federal 
commissions as though that were a regular procedure. 

Unfortunately, General McClellan, in mid-January when 
the Butler-Andrew storm broke, was all too willing to oblige 
the Governor by nullifying "Butler's expedition" and divert- 
ing his recruits to the Army of the Potomac. 

Fox appealed to Stanton who was new in office, having but 
recently relieved the ineffectual Cameron. This was the first 
that Stanton had heard of an expedition for New Orleans. 
In principle he heartily approved of such a move, but he went 
through the formality of requiring a report on the project 
from McClellan. The latter, once more thinking in terms of 
fifty thousand troops to besiege the forts, on January 25 
recommended that "what is known as 'General Butler's expe- 
dition* ought to be suspended/' 13 

To counteract this adverse decision of the general-in-chief, 
Fox and Butler, with considerable aid from General J. G. 
Barnard, who had been a member of the naval strategy board 
which had originally considered the New Orleans problem, 
worked directly with Secretary Stanton, marshaling figures 
explaining the navy's plan of operations. Stanton at length 

Launching the New Orleans Campaign 139 

rendered the decision that Butler should go on to the Gulf 
as originally planned. Stanton's bold move saved the care- 
fully wrought project of Lincoln's Navy for one of the war's 
most important expeditions, although, as the canny Secretary 
of the Navy surmised, it marked the beginning of the personal 
rift between Stanton and McClellan. Butler received his 
orders on February 23 and at once put to sea. Mrs. Butler, 
no less hardy than the redoubtable general, accompanied 

On the way south Butler's transport, the S.S. Mississippi, 
ran aground off Wilmington, North Carolina, on Frying Pan 
Shoals. 14 When her captain dropped an anchor overboard in 
the shallow water, the wind drove the ship against it and 
punched a hole in her bow. A navy blockader buoyed a 
channel and stood by until she floated the next day. Con- 
tinuing on down the coast to Du Font's naval base at Port 
Royal, she lost twelve days there getting her hull repaired. 
That finished, she backed into a shell bank, broke tiller 
ropes, ran crazily on shore a mile away, and stuck until re- 
leased by navy tugs at high tide the next morning. To appease 
his now frightened troops, Butler put the transport captain 
under arrest and made the final lap to Ship Island under a 
young officer loaned to him by the Navy. 

Ship Island lay midway between Mobile Bay and the 
mouths of the Mississippi. It was about sixty-five miles east of 
New Orleans as the crow flies and ninety-five north of the 
deltas. Above the flat white sands of the western end of the 
island arose the silhouettes of a lighthouse, a rude fort, and 
the breeze-whipped tents of the soldiers. 

By the U.S.S. Pensacola which reached Ship Island on 
March 2, Flag Officer Farragut received from the Navy 
Department sketches and a detailed description of the New 
Orleans forts for his own and General Butler's use. "The 
most important operation of the war is confided to yourself 
and your brave associates," read Welles's covering letter, 
"and every light possible to obtain should be carefully con- 
sidered before putting into operation the plan which your 


judgment dictates." Although, there were only fifteen feet of 
water at the deepest entrance into the river, Farragut was 
urged to lighten the huge frigate Colorado, which had a 22-foot 
draft, so as to have the use of its enormous fire power when 
passing the forts. "The Department relies upon your skill to 
give direction to the powerful force placed at your disposal, 
and upon your personal character to infuse a hearty coopera- 
tion amongst your officers, free from unworthy jealousies. If 
successful, you open the way to the sea for the great West, 
never again to be closed. The rebellion will be riven in the 
center, and the flag to which you have been so faithful will 
recover its supremacy in every State." 1S 

Farragut's squadron was a heterogeneous group of vessels 
that included sailing sloops, converted merchant steamers of 
assorted sizes, old steam frigates, and a class of brand-new 
gunboats whose shakedown cruise was their voyage to Ship 
Island. The U.S.S. Mississippi was a lumbering side-wheel 
battleship, veteran of Perry's opening of Japan. The Varuna 
was a light merchantman purchased only a month before 
Farragut left for the Gulf. The Mortar Flotilla was made up 
of whaling schooners and a miscellany of side-wheel ferry- 
boats and new navy-built "double-enders" like the Miami. 

For weeks after he reached Ship Island, it looked as though 
Farragut would not be able to move for lack of coal. The 
small supply the Navy had ordered was requisitioned by ships 
of the Atlantic squadrons, or the sail-driven colliers were 
blown off course, or they thoughtlessly unloaded at Key West, 
which had been the base of the Gulf Squadron before its 
reorganization into eastern and western units. Farragut bor- 
rowed seventeen hundred tons from General Butler, and 
afterward towed Butler's steam transport into the river to 
conserve coal. The flag officer was short, too, of such essentials 
as fuses, lint for bandages, and medical supplies, and wrote 
worried letters to the department about these matters during 
the first few weeks while he was distributing his sailing ships 
along the thousand miles of Gulf coast that had been allotted 

Launching the New Orleans Campaign 

to his Western Gulf Blockading Squadron and drawing in his 
steamers for the push upriver to New Orleans. 

Farragut's well-intentioned friends had persuaded the de- 
partment that the frigate Colorado could he got into the river, 
and their unfortunate advice cost the flag officer several 
weeks of anxious delay. The Colorado's coal and movable 
gear were transferred from the deep-bellied vessel to a char- 
tered merchantman, but, since the removal of twenty tons 
lightened her only an inch, the business was tedious. After a 
conscientious struggle to carry through the department's wish, 
Farragut gave up the effort, appointed the Colorado's elderly 
skipper, Captain Theodorus Bailey, as leader of a gunboat 
division, and shifted the ship's best guns and gun crews to 
other ships that could enter the river. 

On the bar at Pass a 1' Outre, the trim Brooklyn, drawing 
only fifteen feet, had remained stuck for seventeen hours. 
Farragut took her around to South West Pass, where, in a 
deeper channel that had previously been sounded and marked 
by the Coast Survey, she grounded for only an hour before 
sliding over the bar into the deep water inside the river. It 
had now been twelve months since normal peacetime traffic 
through the mouths of Big Muddy had ceased. The tons of 
silt brought down daily by the two-and-a-half- to four-mile 
current were piled up in tough, gummy clods on the bars, 
constantly filling the ship channels or causing them to shift 

Farragut's trim sloops, the Hartford, the Brooklyn, and the 
Richmond, had little trouble negotiating Southwest Pass, but 
the Pensacola and the Mississippi, even after a trip to Ship 
Island to lighten them, proved difficult. The plan was to heel 
over the Pensacola and to pull her through on her side. 
Porter's mortar steamers thus dragged her part of the way 
across the bar when the vessel's pilots waved Porter's towing 
vessels aside. The Pensacola now barged ahead under full 
steam and, running aground on a sunken wreck a hundred 
yards off the main channel, nosed over so far that her spinning 
screws were exposed. "The fool of a first Lt. and a very 


ignorant and gassy Pilot, who never cast a lead," Porter re- 
ported to Fox, "overshadow the old Captain and if they don't 
get in they will have no one to blame but themselves. Neither 
skill nor energy has been displayed in the management of that 
vessel; there are too many 'can't do this' and 'can't do that' to 
expect much from her." 16 Porter, pocketing his disgust, once 
more hitched three or four of his steamers in tandem and 
tugged at the distressed ship. But neither the Pensacola nor 
the side-wheeler Mississippi, which could not be careened 
without smashing a wheel, was brought through until a strong 
southerly breeze the second week in April raised the water on 
the bar almost enough to float them. 

After his ships had crossed over the bar, Farragufs coal 
arrived, so that he was able to begin the attack. 

Fleet Captain EL H. Bell he sent to examine the Con- 
federate defenses, eighteen miles north of the Head of the 
Passes. The first barrier Bell found to be a chain of hulks 
across the river below the forts. A few months earlier the 
defenders had blocked the river with a raft of logs joined 
by underslung chains, but the raft had been carried away by 
the tremendous weight of driftwood that had piled against it 
during recent floods. In its place was a barrier composed of 
seven anchored hulks chained together at the bow. Of these 
the masts and rigging had been chopped away and allowed 
to trail astern to foul an enemy's propellers. Captain Bell 
noted that trees along the bank had been felled to give Fort 
Jackson's heavy casemated guns a clear sweep down the river. 

From General Butler, who had sent a landing party ashore 
at Biloxi, Mississippi, Farragut received a batch of New 
Orleans newspapers which attested the Confederate belief 
that New Orleans was unassailable from below. "The Missis- 
sippi is fortified so as to be impassable for any hostile fleet or 
flotilla/' "Forts Jackson and St. Philip are armed with one 
hundred and seventy heavy guns." The Merrimack's phe- 
nomenal success of March 8 had given the people of New 
Orleans confidence in the iron-sheathed vessels they were 
themselves building. "In a day or two we shall have ready 

Launching the New Orleans Campaign 143 

two iron-cased floating batteries. . . . Each iron-cased battery 
will mount twenty sixty-eight pounders, placed so as to skim 
the water, and striking the enemy's hull between wind and 
water. We have an abundance of incendiary shells, cupola 
furnaces for molten iron, congreve rockets and fire-ships. Be- 
tween New Orleans and the forts there is a constant succes- 
sion of earthworks." * 7 

At Pilot Town, a muddy village on South West Pass whose 
houses were perched precariously on posts to keep them above 
floodwater, Farragut placed all the inhabitants on parole and 
requisitioned several buildings as storage sheds for masts, 
spars, and other gear not wanted up the river, and he pre- 
pared other dwellings for possible use as hospitals. 

To his captains he now issued detailed instructions for pre- 
paring the ships for action. "I wish you to understand," he 
concluded, "that the day is at hand when you will be called 
upon to meet the enemy in the worst form for our profes- 
sion. ... I expect every vessel's crew to be well exercised at 

their guns Hot and cold shot will no doubt be freely dealt 

to us, and there must be stout hearts, and quick hands I 

shall expect the most prompt attention to signals and verbal 
orders " 1S 


The Seizure of Mew Orleans 

ate strongholds, was a star-shaped pentagon of brick no yards 
on a side with bastions at the corners. The U. S. Army engi- 
neers who built it, being sticklers for blueprints, surrounded 
it with a wet ditch, although the fort was mired down in 
swamp. Within its two curtains which bore on the river, Fort 
Jackson had twenty-four smoothbores and howitzers in case- 
mate. 1 When perfectly horizontal, these guns, owing to the 
fort's foundations having settled into the ooze, were just 
about on a level with the top of the levee. They could fire 
horizontally and strike Farragut's ships somewhere above the 
water line, but could not be depressed enough to hull them 
"between wind and water." These guns were encased beneath 
vaulted roofs and could not be put out of action by Porter's 
mortar shells. Up on the parapets, however, and in her adja- 
cent water battery, Fort Jackson had forty-two guns which 
were open to the sky- To smother these guns the mortars 
would be useful. 

Fort St. Philip on the opposite side of the river was an anti- 
quated, Spanish-built fortification, to which had been added 
modern bombproof magazines and shelters. Fort St. Philip 
had only forty-nine guns bearing on the river, all in barbette 
and exposed to mortar fire. But St. Philip was favorably 
placed on the kneecap of the bend in the river so that its guns 
commanded a longer sweep of the river than Jackson's. Far- 
ragut would have to head directly toward St. Philip's guns 



f~r is* p 
Uulf of 

^/ -X -/ 



THE NEW ORLEANS FORTS. After Farragut ran the gant- 
let, Butler's troops landed from the Gulf side at Quar- 
antine, to isolate Forts Jackson and St. Philip. 


and accept the diagonal fire from Jackson's for a run of sev- 
eral miles, during which he could operate only a few bow 
guns. When opposite the forts, Farragut could bring to bear 
154 guns, only half of which could be in use at a time. Against 
St. Philip, which was 3,680 yards away, Porter's mortars could 
scarcely perform with the same efficiency as against Jackson, 
only 2,850 yards distant. Accompanying General Butler, as a 
specialist both in the construction of Fort St. Philip and in 
the terrain back of it, was Lieutenant Godfrey Weitzel, a 
young army engineer who, while on duty at Fort St. Philip, 
had shot ducks in the swamps and knew where the bayous 
were through which Butler's men could approach from the 
Gulf side in case it proved necessary to storm the fort. 

In addition to the barrier chain of hulks, the Confederates 
had a supply of fire rafts and an assortment of converted river 
steamers which they styled the River Defense Fleet. At New 
Orleans, too, were several ironclad floating batteries in process 
of construction. 2 These, since the exploit o the Confederate 
ironclad Manassas at the Head of the Passes, had won an ex- 
aggerated fame. Their construction, however, had been seri- 
ously retarded by the Confederate Government's failure to 
provide funds and the reluctance of New Orleans artisans to 
work without pay. After Farragut disclosed his intention to 
attack New Orleans from the Gulf, Confederate General 
Mansfield Lovell appealed to Richmond for an increase of 
force. But the Confederate States Government elected to rely 
on the forts alone for defense. New Orleans, in Richmond's 
opinion, was more seriously threatened by the midwestern 
Federal army with its flotilla o ironclad gunboats descending 
the Mississippi River from Cairo than by Farragut's wooden 
warships in the lower river. 

While the mortar schooners stripped for action at Pilot 
Town, sending ashore their spars, sails, and inessential fur- 
niture, a Coast Survey vessel under gunboat escort triangu- 
lated the river below the forts to mark positions and ranges 
for the mortar schooners. There was bitter fighting between 
boats' crews protecting the surveyors and Confederate sharp- 

The Seizure of New Orleans 

shooters in the flooded forest who sniped at the Federals by 
day and removed their surveyors' markers by night. 

A New York Times reporter, impressed by the energy dis- 
played in mosquito-infested Pilot Town, wrote: "The mortar 
captains, a jolly set of fellows, may become ill . . . if some- 
thing is not done soon. They begin to fret at the lack of op- 
portunity for ridding themselves of the large amount of super- 
fluous energy with which they are imbued/' 3 Regular sea 
dogs in Farragut's squadron shook their heads and predicted 
that the bottoms of the mortar schooners would drop out at 
the tenth fire. But these oldsters approved of the smart dress 
parade which Porter staged when he towed his schooners up 
the river to battle positions. "They looked very pretty," con- 
fessed a seaman on the Hartford; "as they ranged along the 
shore in line of battle, with their flagship, the Harriet Lane> 
at their head." 4 

The three divisions of the flotilla were anchored in marked 
positions. The First and Third Divisions under Lieutenants 
Watson Smith and K. R. Breese were placed along the western 
bank below the lower limit of Fort Jackson's casemate fire and 
were sheltered behind cottonwood trees laden with vines. The 
Second Division under Lieutenant W. W. Queen was moored 
on the east bank in a position exposed but favorably located 
for attacking Fort St. Philip. The crippling of two vessels 
in this group shortly after the bombardment began caused 
Porter to place it below the other divisions against the west- 
ern bank. 

The bombardment, continuing past the anticipated forty- 
eight hours, lasted for six days and nights. The schooners 
dressed their tops with bushes, both to hide masts and to shield 
spotters who perched aloft to check accuracy of firing. Trees on 
shore shortly became black with powder dust, as did the 
gunners themselves. "The enemy's fire was excellent," wrote 
General J. K. Duncan, commander of the forts, "a large pro- 
portion of his shells falling within Fort Jackson. The . . . 
parapets and platforms were very much cut up, as well as 
much damage done to the casemates. The magazines were 


considerably threatened, and one shell passed into the case- 
mate containing fixed ammunition/' 5 

After rowing up the river the first night to check on dam- 
ages, Porter was convinced that the mortars alone might 
compel a surrender. Farragut permitted him to prolong his 
firing, especially since the high wind now blowing from the 
north would retard vessels in passing the forts. Shot from Fort 
Jackson tore through the point of forest which shielded the 
"bombards," splintering and uprooting trees. As rapidly as 
the brush was stripped from the schooners' masts, it was re- 
placed by the powder-streaked gunners. Here and there a 
vessel's crew would take time out to sleep on a quivering deck 
not twenty feet from their next neighbor's thundering mor- 

Porter found that too many shells exploded in midfiight. 
After fruitlessly struggling to adjust the length of the unreli- 
able fuses, he finally put in full-length fuses to burst the shells 
after they had entered the ground. The swamp had en- 
croached upon the fort as a result of bomb damage and recent 
rains, and the bombshells, after embedding themselves twenty 
feet in the ground, blew geysers of mud into the air, "not 
doing a great deal of harm, but demoralizing the men/' 6 

To obtain relief from the concentrated rain of thirteen- 
inch mortar shells, General Duncan sent fire barges down 
the river and made repeated calls upon Commander J. K. 
Mitchell of the Confederate ironclad battery Louisiana to 
bring down from New Orleans his uncompleted vessel to 
draw some of the fire away from the forts. Commander 
Mitchell shifted his ironclad with workmen and tenders to a 
mooring half a mile above Fort St. Philip, where work on her 
was continued. 7 Although 150 men were now detailed from 
the forts to man the ironclad's guns, the vessel's engines were 
not functioning, so that she could not be employed against 
Farragut. Fire rafts at first caused confusion among Farragut's 
closely packed vessels. Several ships collided or lost anchors 
in working clear of these menaces. But the Federals developed 
a system for grappling and dowsing or towing the barge 

The Seizure of New Orleans 149 

torches clear of the fleet. One night the crews of fifty small 
boats quenched an inferno by pouring on buckets of water 
and salvaged a barge load of fat pine logs. Another night a fire 
raft that had been guided through the fleet ignited the trees 
for half a mile along the bank where it was brought to rest. 

On the night of April 20 Farragut sent Captain Bell, his 
fleet captain, up the river to break the chain barrier. In the 
swift current and under fire of the forts, Bell's vessels fouled 
the obstructions, ran aground, and broke electric wires lead- 
ing to petards placed on the hulks, but one of his gunboats, 
after slipping the chain over the bow of a hulk, rammed into 
the chain and broke it, opening a gap in the barrier wide 
enough for the fleet to enter in single file. 

In preparation for running past Forts Jackson and St. 
Philip, all of Farragut's ships hung sheet cables up and down 
on the sides as a sort of loosely woven chain mail to protect 
their engines. And, since they would be exposed to raking fire 
from the forts before they could bring their own broadsides 
into action, each commander tried to stop fore and aft shot 
from penetrating boilers or machinery by packing in exposed 
areas clothes bags and hammocks, sacks of ashes, sand, and 
coal. Some lined their bulwarks with hammocks, others with 
splinter nettings of woven rope. Some rubbed their vessels 
with mud to make them less visible, and whitewashed their 
gundecks to make tackle, marline spikes, and ammunition 
visible without use of lanterns. 

Farragut organized his attack squadron into three divisions: 
Bailey's flying the red pennant, Farragut's the blue, and Bell's 
the red and blue. These groups were constituted as follows: 8 

RED DIVISION Captain Theodoras Bailey 

Gayuga, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 2 guns, Lieutenant N. B. 

Pensacola, screw sloop, 2,158 tons, 23 guns, Captain H. W. 


Mississippi, side-wheeler, 1,695 tons, 17 guns, Captain M. Smith 
Oneida, screw corvette, 1,032 tons, 9 guns, Commander S. P. 



Varuna> screw corvette, 1,300 tons, 10 guns, Commander C. S. 

Katahdin, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 2 guns, Lieutenant G. H. 

Kineo, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 2 guns, Lieutenant G. ML 

Wissahickon, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 2 guns, Lieutenant A. N. 


BLUE DIVISION Flag Officer David G. Farragut 
Hartford, screw sloop, 1,990 tons, 24 guns, Commander R. 

Brooklyn, screw sloop, 2,070 tons, 22 guns, Captain T. T. 

Richmond, screw sloop, 1,929 tons, 24 guns. Commander J. 


RED AND BLUE DIVISION Captain Henry H. Bell 

Sciota, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 2 guns, Lieutenant E. Don- 

Iroquois, screw corvette, 1,016 tons, 7 guns, Commander J. 

Pinole^ screw gunboat, 507 tons, 2 guns, Lieutenant P. Crosby 

Kennebec 3 screw gunboat, 507 tons, 2 guns, Lieutenant J. H. 

Itasca, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 2 guns, Lieutenant C. H. B. 

Winona, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 2 guns, Lieutenant E. T. 

Bailey's division, with the stout Pensacola and the Missis- 
sippi, was expected to pass close by and devote its chief atten- 
tion to Fort St. Philip. Farragut, with the three heaviest 
broadsides of the fleet, planned to concentrate upon Fort 
Jackson; while Bell with the light gunboats, primarily useful 
for maneuvering in the upper river, would simply sprint up- 
stream while covered by the first two divisions. 

During Farragut's attempt to run the gantlet, the mortars 
behind Point of Woods were to increase their rate of fire; and 
Porter, with six of the light steamers of the Mortar Flotilla, 
was to move up into an exposed position close to the barrier 

The Seizure of New Orleans 151 

and enfilade Fort Jackson's water battery. The attacking 
steamers under Commander David D. Porter were: * 

Harriet Lane, side-wheeler, 619 tons, 3 guns, Lieutenant J. M. 

Westfieldj ex-ferryboat, 891 tons, 6 guns, Commander W. B. 


Owasco, screw gunboat, 507 tons, 2 guns, Lieutenant J. Guest 
Clifton, ex-ferryboat, 892 tons, 7 guns, Lieutenant C. H. Baldwin 
Miami, double-ender, 730 tons, 5 guns, Lieutenant A. D. Harrell 
Jackson, ex-ferryboat, 777 tons, 7 guns, Lieutenant S. E. Wood- 

At 2:00 A.M. on April 24, two dull red lanterns hung from 
the mizzen peak of the flagship Hart-ford signaled to the fleet 
to get under way, but, because of difficulty in purchasing their 
anchors, the line did not begin moving until after three. Cap- 
tain Bailey, in his little "pilot fish" Gayuga, led the procession 
through the gap in the barrier at 3:30. A quarter of an hour 
later the forts opened fire. The Cayuga sped through the area 
of danger between the forts in fifteen minutes and was struck 
forty-two times. Her masts were mangled, smokestack riddled, 
but, with her crews prone on deck when not serving her two 
guns, she came through with only six wounded. 

In the blackness the slower Pensacola lost sight of the lead- 
ing gunboat, and, after cruising close alongside of her ap- 
pointed target, Fort St. Philip, lost her bearings and sheered 
to the opposite side of the river where she came under the 
cross fire of both forts. Lieutenant Roe, who conned the ship, 
saw gun crews decimated with horrible groans, shrieks, and 
wails. "My signal quartermaster and my boy aid (Flood) were 
both swept away from my side. The quartermaster lost his leg 
by a cannon ball . . . shell burst all about me. At daylight I 
found the right leg of my pantaloons and drawers cut away by 
the knee, and the skirt of my coat cut in a strip; yet my body 
was untouched." 10 The muzzles of the Pensacola's guns al- 
most scraped the plated sides of the dreaded Confederate 
Manassas y but this turtle-backed ironclad ran on downstream 
squaring off for a bout with the side-wheeler Mississippi. 


The Confederate ram attempted to butt the port paddle 
wheel of the Mississippi and was balked in her effort by Lieu- 
tenant George Dewey who maneuvered the big ship so skill- 
fully that she received only a glancing blow on her quarter. 
The future hero of Manila Bay, leaning far out over the 
rail, saw in the lurid light from shellburst and fire raft, where 
planks had been ripped off his vessel, about fifty gleaming 
ends of copper bolts "cut as clean as if they were hair under 
a razor's edge/* X1 A few minutes after the Manassas had 
made a feint toward the flagship, Farragut hailed the Missis- 
sippi to run down the ram. The Mississippi,, quickly backing 
one wheel and driving forward the other, turned on her axis 
and dashed after the Manassas only to see her plough into the 
river bank. The Mississippi poured two broadsides into the 
stalled Confederate and left her breathing out smoke through 
a row of fresh punctures that resembled portholes. 

The Confederate tug Mosker pushed a fire barge toward 
the flagship, in attempting to avoid which Farragut's ship ran 
aground. The inferno continued to be shoved against the 
grounded ship. Flames blowing through the ports and run- 
ning up the rigging endangered the Hartford as much as the 
gunfire of the forts which was now concentrated against her. 
But she extinguished her flames, backed herself free of the 
bank, and proceeded upstream, her gunners the while never 
slacking in the broadsides they delivered to the forts. 

In the darkness and blinding smoke the captain of the 
Brooklyn, next in line after the Hartford, lost sight of the 
latter, missed the gap in the barricade, and crashed over one 
of the anchored hulks. "For a few moments I was entangled 
and fell athwart the stream, our bow grazing the shore on the 
left bank of the river," wrote Captain T. T. Craven. "Whilst 
in this situation I received a pretty severe fire from Fort St. 
PhiKp. Immediately after extricating my ship from the rafts 
her head was turned upstream and a few minutes thereafter 
she was feebly butted by the celebrated ram Manassas. She 
came butting into our starboard gangway, first firing from her 
trapdoor when within about 10 feet of the ship, directly 

The Seizure of New Orleans 

toward our smokestack, her shot entering about 5 feet above 
the water line and lodging in the sandbags which protected 
our steam drum. I had discovered this queer-looking gentle- 
man while forcing my way over the barricade, lying close in 
to the bank, and when he made his appearance the second 
time I was so close to him that he had not an opportunity to 
get up his full speed, and his efforts to damage nie were com- 
pletely frustrated, our chain armor proving a perfect protec- 
tion to our sides. He soon slid off and disappeared in the 
darkness/' 12 

Above the forts there was a brief melee between Farragut's 
van ships and the Confederate River Defense Fleet. These 
latter river craft and steam tugs, some of them fitted with rams 
and light metal plating across the bow, made a heroic struggle. 
The Governor Moore, under Confederate Lieutenant Beverly 
Kennon, twice rammed the Federal Varuna, and, being un- 
able otherwise to aim his pivot gun at his target, fired down- 
ward through his own vessel's bow. The Varuna, the only 
converted merchantman to attempt to run past the forts, was 
the only vessel sunk by the Confederates. Her skipper, Com- 
mander C. S. Boggs, xan her into the bank, let go her anchors, 
tied her to the trees, and, while she was slowly sinking, 
continued to operate her guns until the muddy water swirled 
around her gun trucks. Then he abandoned ship. Only three 
small gunboats at the rear of Farragut's line failed to get 
through. One was crippled by a boiler injury, and the others, 
daylight having arrived, found the wrath of the forts concen- 
trated against them. By simply dropping their crews on 
deck, the Kennebec, the Itasca, and the Winona drifted down- 
stream out of action. 

At the quarantine station four miles above the forts, Far- 
ragut stopped long enough to bury his dead and temporarily 
plug the leaks in his vessels. His losses had been 36 killed and 
135 wounded. To Porter he sent a cheerful note "You sup- 
ported us most nobly." 13 Leaving two gunboats to protect 
General Butler's landing of troops, Farragut pushed on 
toward the city of New Orleans. All the morning of the 


twenty-fifth his ships dodged the evidences of panic in New 
Orleans. "Cotton-loaded ships on fire came floating down, and 
working implements of every kind, such as are used in ship- 
yards/* 14 At the English Turn, the site of Andrew Jackson's 
victory over the British in 1815, Farragut discovered new 
earthwork forts on both shores. About 10:30 A.M., with his 
fleet in two lines, Farragut passed between these defenses. 
The river here was too narrow actually for two vessels to 
operate in tandem; his crews were so excited that the flag 
officer's greatest fear was that they would fire into each other. 
"Captain Wainwright and myself were hallooing ourselves 
hoarse at the men not to fire into our ships," Farragut wrote 
to Fox. But this engagement, "one of the little elegancies of 
the profession; a dash and a victory/' was quickly decided and 
Farragut moved on up to the city and dropped anchor. 15 

Meanwhile, when Confederate General Mansfield Lovell 
at New Orleans learned of Farragut's passing the forts, he 
evacuated his troops from New Orleans, taking with them as 
much food and military stores as the retreating trains could 
carry. Then he ran a torch along the length of the levee. Pa- 
triotic citizens participated in the frenzy of destruction by 
emptying warehouses, tossing cotton on the fires, or staving 
in barrels of molasses and sugar and pouring them in the 
gutters. When Farragut arrived he found the levee "one scene 
of destruction; ships, steamers, cotton, coal, etc., were all in 
one common blaze, and our ingenuity much taxed to avoid 
the floating conflagration/' 16 

"The river was filled with ships on fire/' wrote the New 
York Herald reporter billeted on board the Hartford, "and 
all along the levee were burning vessels, no less than eighteen 
vessels being on fire at one time and the enemy firing others 

as fast as they could apply the torch The atmosphere was 

thick with smoke and the air hot with flames. It was a grand 

but sad sight At the levee just by the Custom House lay 

a burning ram (the Anglo-Norman). The unfinished frames 
of two or three more were on the stocks at Algiers [across the 
river] While men were hastening up the levee firing ships 

The Seizure of New Orleans 155 

and river craft as fast as possible, the people were rushing to 
and fro. Some of them cheered for the Union, when they 
were fired upon by the crowd. Men, women and children 
were armed with pistols, knives and all manner of weapons. 
Some cheered for Jeff. Davis, Beauregard, etc., and used the 
most vile and obscene language toward us and the good old 
flag. Pandemonium was here a living picture/* 17 

Farragut seized all steamboats that had not been destroyed 
and sent them down to quarantine to bring General Butler's 
troops to New Orleans. He ordered Lee of the Oneida to seek 
out the unfinished Confederate ironclad Mississippi^ but that 
vessel, having already been set afire and cut from her moor- 
ings, presently drifted through the fleet in flames. 

Captain Theodoras Bailey was sent ashore to demand sur- 
render of the city. He could find no civil official willing 
to undertake that responsibility. Mayor John T. Monroe 
claimed that the city was ruled by General Lovell under 
martial law. Lovell, when summoned, returned the city to 
the mayor, as his troops had now departed. Monroe replied 
that he would not haul down the Louisiana State flag. Any 
citizen who did so, he avowed, would be mobbed. Lowering 
the Confederate flag "would have to be performed by the 
invading forces themselves," 1S 

The Stars and Stripes emblem which Captain Morris of 
Pensacola raised over the United States Mint building was 
torn down by a group of hot Secessionists and desecrated. 
Farragut sent a battalion of marines to lower Secession flags 
and raise the Stars and Stripes over public buildings. To 
Mayor Monroe, Farragut wrote on the twenty-sixth: "I shall 
speedily and severely punish any person or persons who shall 
commit such outrages as were witnessed yesterday by armed 
men firing upon helpless women and children for giving ex- 
pression to their pleasure at witnessing the 'old flag/ " To 
this Monroe answered that the people of New Orleans "do 
not allow themselves to be insulted" by deserters in their 
midst who "might remind them too forcibly that they are the 
conquered and you the conquerors. . . . Your occupying of the 


city does not transfer allegiance from the government of their 
choice to one which they have deliberately repudiated, and 
they yield the obedience which the conqueror is entitled to 
extort from the conquered." 19 

Meanwhile, for three days the situation below the forts was 
one of uncertainty. Farragut's fleet had gone to New Orleans 
leaving the forts unreduced and, in the absence of accurate 
information, the ram Louisiana was believed to be "as lively 
as ever." Under flag of truce Porter demanded surrender of 
the forts, and, the demand refused, he expended the remain- 
der of his available ammunition in renewed bombardment. 
Then he sent the defenseless mortar schooners to Pilot Town 
twenty-five miles away and with his light steamers mounted 
guard behind the Point of Woods. 

General Butler, with naval assistance, transferred the 
Twenty-sixth Massachusetts from inside the river below the 
forts, out through Pass a L'Outre, and around to a landing 
from the Gulf side behind Fort St. Philip. The troops made 
their way up a bayou known as Maunels Canal which empties 
into the Gulf and, after their galleys touched bottom, they 
waded the last mile and a half in water and mud that was 
sometimes hip deep. After they reached quarantine, some 
were ferried by Farragut's gunboats, the Wissahickon and the 
Kineo, across to the Fort Jackson side of the river. Both forts 
were thus cut off from their escape routes to New Orleans, 
since the flooded condition of the countryside left only these 
narrow trails of dry land along the levees which were now 
occupied by Federal troops. 

At midnight on the twenty-seventh the troops in Fort Jack- 
son seized the guards and posterns and turned their guns on 
the officers who sought to check their mutiny, and the next 
day General Duncan came off to the Harriet Lane and sur- 
rendered the forts. Because of disunity between the Confed- 
erate forces ashore and afloat, the Confederate ships were not 
included in the capitulation. While the surrender negotia- 
tions were in process between General Duncan and Com- 
mander Porter of the Mortar Flotilla, word was brought to the 

The Seizure of New Orleans 

Harriet Lane that the ironclad Louisiana had been set on 
fire and cast adrift. "This is sharp practice/' Porter remarked 
to the Confederate officers, "but if you can stand the explo- 
sion when it comes we can. We will go on and finish the 
capitulation." 20 Several minutes after the signing was com- 
pleted the boom of the explosion was heard. Everything in 
the cabin was jolted from side to side, but not an officer left 
his seat. 

"New Orleans falling seems to have made a stampede in 
'Secessia/ " Porter jubilantly wrote to Fox. "You may put the 
rebellion down as 'spavined/ 'broken-backed/ and 'wind- 
galled'. . . . You good people at home can go to work now cut 
down the Navy's pay, and disrate us to your heart's content, 
You will soon have no use for us in this contest." 21 

Butler's transports arrived in New Orleans on May i, and 
Farragut turned over to the political general the arduous 
chore of governing New Orleans. Fortunately, Butler proved 
to be unusually gifted in what to the United States Army was 
then the novel science of military administration. Quasi- 
rebellious citizens were held in check. The destitute were 
fed. Law and order were made to prevail. The sanitary situa- 
tion was corrected as it had never been before. And these 
matters were of no small import in view of the use to be made 
of New Orleans as a naval base for future operations both 
within the river and on the Gulf coast. 

If Lincoln's Navy in seizing New Orleans had not yet sue 
ceeded in opening the Mississippi River and splitting the 
Confederacy in two, it had made a long stride in that direc- 


Early Operations 
on the "Inland Sea 




West, the Confederate States, adopting a strategy of perimeter 
defense, set up several small batteries overlooking the Missis- 
sippi River at Columbus, Kentucky, and built Forts Henry 
and Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. 
Although single-track railroads had begun to stretch across 
the fields and forests of the Middle West, the rivers were still 
the natural arteries of this region. From the Southern strate- 
gists' point of view, the Mississippi, which bisected the Con- 
federacy, and the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, which 
gave easy access into the heart of Tennessee, were the most 
dreaded paths of invasion. 

Once the Confederate batteries had been erected at Colum- 
bus, Kentucky, the Federals, whether they wished to invade or 
not, were forced to take military action to open the Missis- 
sippi. Like an ax across the trunk of a tree, the Columbus 
batteries cut across the middle of the Mississippi's main stem, 
converting its upper reaches, the Ohio, the Missouri, and 
their many tributaries into an "inland sea" of navigable 
water many hundred miles in length. As early as January, 
1861, when war became inevitable, the governors of Mid- 
western states had already forecast a bloody struggle among 
the canebrakes and wood yards of the lower Mississippi. 1 And 
after Fort Sumter, although the cotton states continued to 


Early Operations on the "Inland Sea" 159 

"import" grain, cattle, and hogs from the North, it was mani- 
fest that the Confederate Government might at will dam up 
all outbound traffic from the inland sea by a simple order to 
commanders of the river forts. The Northern states had been 
long accustomed to cheap transportation by flatboat and river 
steamer. They considered rail freight rates prohibitive for 
shipping their bulky produce and in any case the railroads, 
now largely pre-empted by the military, were not equipped 
to take over the immense hauling job from the river craft. 

To open the Mississippi, then, constituted for Lincoln's 
government vital economic and political objectives, as well 
as a prime military necessity. 

Late in April, after Lincoln had proclaimed the blockade 
of the Southern coast line from Virginia through Texas, there 
appeared in Washington a spokesman from the Midwest who 
proposed a military blockade on the Western waters. He was 
James B. Eads, a prominent engineer of St. Louis who, as 
president of a wrecking company, was familiar with naviga- 
tion on the river. Eads suggested that shore batteries be set 
up (i) at Cairo, where the southern arrow tip of Illinois 
thrusts into the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio, 
and (2) on the Illinois shore of the Ohio River opposite the 
mouths of the Tennessee and the Cumberland Rivers. Stop 
the southward flow of food and the cotton states would be 
starved out, Eads believed, in six months. Eads also offered 
to the government a large snag boat operated by his wrecking 
company to be converted into a floating battery or gunboat 
to enforce this blockade. 2 

Eads's ideas, originally submitted to the Navy, were relayed 
to the War Department. The latter, borrowing naval experts, 
undertook not only a blockade from fixed positions but a 
regular advance along the lines of the rivers into the heart 
of the South. The Eads snag boat was eventually converted 
into the largest ironclad on the rivers, and Eads himself built 
for the government four novel ironclad river gunboats that 
shortly made history in their battles against the Confederate 
perimeter forts. 


Commander John Rodgers II, son of Commodore Rodgers 
of 1812, and a kinetic and efficient officer in his own right, 
was assigned to assist the Army at Cincinnati and was author- 
ized to call upon the Navy for ordnance and crews. Unhappily 
for himself, Rodgers assumed that the gunboats were the 
navy's business. He stretched his slender measure of authority 
to include requisitions upon the Navy Department for money 
to buy boats and everything necessary to convert them. His 
charging the purchase price of three river steamers to the 
Navy Department brought him a prompt rebuke from 
Gideon Welles. Rodgers had been sent out "to aid, advise 
and cooperate" with the Army, Uncle Gideon snapped, to be 
under their direction and at their expense. Welles would 
supply navy guns and crews "but nothing further/' 3 

The military commander of the Army of the West in these 
early days was Major General John C. Fremont, the famed 
"Pathfinder/' presidential candidate, and political contro- 
versialist. As Fremont remained in his headquarters in St. 
Louis, Commander Rodgers saw little of him. Nevertheless, 
Rodgers managed to obtain War Department sanction for his 
purchases and personally scoured the countryside from Buf- 
falo to Chicago for equipment and men. His three Ohio River 
steamers, the Lexington, the Tyler, and the Gonestoga, splen- 
did three-tiered wedding cakes of thin white pine topped with 
the usual carved woodwork, were cut down to one deck, and 
engines and boilers were lowered in the hull and shielded by 
bulwarks of five-inch oak, which made them musket-proof. 
These became useful patrol craft around the army's floating 
naval base at Cairo and plowed up and down the river to 
succor Union citizens from bands of Confederate marauders. 

To obtain vessels for ascending the Tennessee and Cum- 
berland Rivers against Fort Henry and Donelson, Rodgers, 
assisted by Naval Constructor Samuel M. Pook, worked out 
a simple plan of armor-clad gunboat: a rectangular paddle- 
wheeler, armored with two and one half inches of iron across 
the bow and half way back on either side. Later, for fighting 
downstream descending the Mississippi, it was planned to use 

Early Operations on the "Inland Sea" 161 

mortar boats. Gustavus V. Fox, Assistant Secetary of the Navy, 
had suggested the mortar boats. Siege mortars, their operation 
already familiar to army men, were to be mounted on flat- 
boats with reinforced hulls. Without engines of their own, 
they were to be hauled into firing position by tugs. General 
Fremont contracted for thirty-eight of these scows to be con- 
structed in St. Louis, and their heavy guns and mortar plat- 
forms were scheduled to be cast in Pittsburgh. 

In August, after four months of exhausting labor, Com- 
mander Rodgers had built the nucleus of the army's Western 
Flotilla, a mosquito fleet of three shallow-draft, musket-proof 
scout vessels. The exigencies of the situation in the West, 
however, had left him no time to observe amenities toward 
his punctilious superior, General Fremont, On August 9 the 
latter, through Postmaster General Blair, sent word to the 
President that he wished Rodgers removed. Lincoln, not yet 
ready to recall Fremont himself and sensing a certain amount 
of friction between the services, gave Mr. Welles the nod and 
the Secretary recalled Rodgers and sent in his place a salt- 
encrusted seaman, Captain Andrew H. Foote. 

The latter, a Connecticut schoolmate and friend of Secre- 
tary Welles, was shifted from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the 
ambivalent "command of the naval operations upon the 
Western waters, now organizing under the direction of the 
War Department/' Foote was ordered to "place himself in 
communication with Major General John C. Fremont, U. S. 
Army, who commands the Army of the West" and to cooper- 
ate fully and freely with him as to his movements. Although 
Foote's requisitions were to be made upon the War Depart- 
ment, Welles promised to provide "whatever the Army can 
not furnish/ 1 if this could be done after supplying the squad- 
rons on the coast. 4 Thus was Captain Foote tossed like his 
predecessor into the uncertainties of a new fresh-water com- 
mand in which ships o novel type had yet to be built with 
army money and manned by field and forest hands who had 
yet to be recruited and trained. 

When Foote assumed command on September 6, 1861, nine 


ironclads, colloquially known as "Pook turtles" after Naval 
Constructor Pook, were in various stages o construction 
at river ports from St. Louis to Cincinnati. It disturbed Cap- 
tain Foote that these river gunboats were armored only across 
their square bows and along the sides abreast of their engines. 
These partially iron-plated vessels were built for fighting 
headon and upstream, as when operating against Forts Henry 
and Donelson. But in moving downstream past hostile bat- 
teries, as at Columbus, Kentucky, they must perform the 
almost impossible ballet-step maneuver of keeping their pro- 
tected bows always turned toward the enemy, Chances were 
that in the swirling currents these unwieldy craft would be 
swung around willy-nilly to present as targets their un- 
armored hindquarters. 

For four months Captain Foote's chief business was to get 
the vessels built and obtain guns, powder, and crews. Secre- 
tary Welles did not have them to send during these early 
months. Establishing the salt-water blockade and mounting 
the expeditions to Hatteras, Port Royal, and New Orleans 
made it impossible for Lincoln's naval establishment on the 
seacoast to supply also the Western Flotilla. Failing to get 
naval ammunition for the Lexington, the Tyler, and the 
Conestoga, Foote was compelled to accept army powder, 
which was unsatisfactory. He even appealed to Governor 
Morton of Indiana to furnish the flotilla with suitable powder. 

With Eads and the four other builders of the Pook iron- 
clads Foote had little difficulty. Worries he had in plenty. 
Could the armored riverboats be floated over the several bars 
in the Ohio below Cincinnati, for instance? But he had no 
such troubles with the gunboats as he had with the mortar 

The day General Halleck relieved General Fremont, Cap- 
tain Foote called on him at St. Louis. Halleck put him off till 
next day. Foote then requested categorical replies to three 
questions: "May I fit out the Mortar boats?" "Will you give 
me Captain Constable [to be in charge of them]?" "May I 
send Capt. Pike to Pittsburgh for the Mortars?" "No," an- 

Early Operations on the "Inland Sea" 163 

swered Halleck to every question. "I have no authority and 
it cannot be done and I cannot give you an officer or a man/* 
Foote urged further: "General Meigs says you have instruc- 
tions and refers me to you about the Mortar and tug Boats/' 
"General Meigs is mistaken," declared Halleck. 5 

Recruiting for the flotilla was retarded by lack of money. 
The crews of the Lexington, the Tyler, and the Conestoga, 
unpaid for two months, clamored for money for their desti- 
tute families. The War Department authorized the transfer 
to the flotilla of soldiers with naval experience, but army offi- 
cers refused to permit such men to leave their companies. One 
group whom Foote had recruited and sent to St. Louis to take 
charge of the mortar boats was seized by General Halleck and 
impressed into a company of artillery in Sedalia, Missouri. 

Foote was caught in an anomalous situation. He was in the 
War Department but not of it. Many army officers with whom 
he had to deal were ignorant of, and hostile toward, the work 
of his flotilla. To improve his bargaining position in dealing 
with army officers, Foote urged Fox to get for him the rank 
of flag officer. Since the Army of the West rated him with 
lieutenant colonels, every officer of higher grade could inter- 
fere with his movements. At Cairo, where he was without a 
base on shore but possessed only an establishment afloat, con- 
sisting of a wharf boat, a blacksmith boat, and a barge to 
house supplies for his flotilla, he had to fight to prevent a 
brigadier general from taking away his supply barge for other 
purposes! To Fox, Foote complained; "No imagination can 
fancy what it is to collect materials and fit out Western Gun 
Boats with Western men without a Navy Yard in the West, 
where no stores are to be had/* 6 

By January of 1862, when the army's campaign on the 
Western rivers was scheduled to begin, the mortar scows were 
lined up off the levee at Cairo, but their mortars and mortar 
beds or platforms were not yet ready. Through lack of funds, 
through dilatoriness of Halleck and others, the Western 
Flotilla was without one of its major weapons. 

Fox brought the matter to the attention of the President. 


Lincoln was quick to grasp the nature of the Interservice fric- 
tion which had handicapped Captain Foote. By telegraph 
Lincoln lighted a bonfire under the contractor at Pittsburgh. 

"The President is very much exercised in the matter, and 
I do not blame him/' Fox reported to Foote on January 27. 
"He telegraphed to .Pittsburgh and they replied that two 
[mortar] beds were ready. I doubt i the history of any war 
ever furnished such an exposure/' 7 To keep immediately in 
touch with the situation in the flotilla, Lincoln directed Cap- 
tain Foote to send him a daily report by telegraph, "stating 
the progress or lack of progress in the mortar business." 8 The 
daily message was seat through H. A. Wise, an assistant in the 
Naval Ordnance Bureau, who either carried the telegram to 
the White House or showed it to John Hay, one of Lincoln's 
secretaries, with whom Wise frequently lunched. 

Wise assured Foote that his almost superhuman efforts were 
now appreciated by his friends in Washington "from the 
President down," and that, with regard to the mortar rafts, 
"Uncle Abe, as you already know, has gone into that business 
with a will, making his first demonstration entre nous, by 
pitching General Ripley out of his [War Department] Ord- 
nance Bureau Yesterday a.m. came your second telegram, 

which I immediately sent to the White House " 9 

Henceforth, telegrams to the White House became a regu- 
lar feature of Captain Foote's day, by means of which Foote 
obtained prompt action not only upon mortars but upon 
steamboat purchases, transfer of seamen from the Army, car- 
pentry and machine work on the gunboats, procurement of 
supplies, and every other aspect of flotilla business as well. 
Even Secretary Welles fell into the new quickstep and found 
it possible to divert a contingent of regular salt-water officers 
and seamen to man the river gunboats. And, through the 
diplomatic efforts of the ever-cooperative Assistant Secretary, 
Captain Foote's title was inflated to "Flag Officer of the West- 
ern Flotilla/' 

The first week in February,, winter's ice having cleared 
away and early rains swelling the streams, Flag Officer Foote 

Early Operations on the "Inland Sea" 165 

set out from Cairo to test four of his new ironclad gunboats. 
These were the Cincinnati,, flagship, under Commander R. N. 
Stembel; the Essex, under Commander W. D. Porter; the 
C&rondelet, under Commander H. A. Walke; and the St. 
Louis, under Lieutenant Commander Leonard Paulding. 
With these went also the veterans of the mosquito fleet: the 
Conestoga, under Lieutenant Commander S. L. Phelps; the 
Lexington,, under Lieutenant Commander J. W. Shirk; and 
the Tyler, under Lieutenant Commander William Gwin. 

It was to be the first time that American-built ironclads had 
been tested in battle and the first time that any American 
naval officer had fought in such craft. Moreover, this first hot 
experimental battle against Fort Henry was to be the opening 
move in the Western Army's first campaign. On passenger 
steamers Brigadier General U.S. Grant's army of seventeen 
thousand followed the gunboat convoy as it moved up the 
Ohio and turned right into the Tennessee. 

With Foote's aid, Grant had persuaded the reluctant Gen- 
eral Halleck to adopt the following strategy: Grant, with 
gunboat support, was to attack the Confederate center at Fort 
Henry, isolating the strong Confederate wing positions at 
Columbus and Bowling Green. After Foote's ironclads had 
punched through Fort Henry^ his light craft were to ascend 
the Tennessee River as far as Muscle Shoals, capturing and 
destroying enemy boats and stores, and knocking out the 
bridge of the Memphis and Clarksville Railroad. Grant's 
troops, meanwhile, were immediately to move eleven miles 
east of Fort Henry to invest Fort Donelson, while Foote's 
ironclads ascended the Cumberland to assist with their heavy 
ordnance. Fort Donelson subdued, the capital of Tennessee,, 
Nashville, would be uncovered. 

Ascending the mud-yellow Tennessee River, the black iron 
gunboats, each measuring 175 by 5114, with draft of 6 feet, 
picked their way around snags, inundated trees, and other 
navigational hazards. On February 6, as they rounded Pan- 
ther Island, just before reaching the Tennessee state line, they 
discovered two miles in the distance the low lines of Fort 


Henry on the east bank. Grant disembarked his troops below 
the gunboats with the intent of circling to attack the fort from 
the rear while Footers guns hammered it from the water. The 
soldiers marched to the beat of drums and brass bands and 
sang national airs, but, as the forest was drowned by back- 
waters, their progress was slow and they arrived too late for 
the combined assault. 

Foote's four ironclads moved abreast toward the fort, with 
shutters open and eleven heavy cannon protruding through 
their forward gunports. 10 At 12:36 P.M. these bow guns began 
a duel with the fort that lasted an hour and a quarter, in 
which the ships moved slowly upstream firing at ranges 
diminishing from seventeen hundred to six hundred yards. 
The din of cannon from fort and gunboats reverberated 
through the forest, muffing the labored puffing of the steam- 
ers and the swish of paddle wheels that pushed the heavy craft 

Shot after Confederate shot clanged against slanted black 
Federal armor. Midway in the fight, a ball entering one of the 
ports of the Essex clipped off the skull of the captain's aide 
and coursing aft exploded a boiler. Escaping steam painfully 
scalded Commander William D. Porter, two pilots, and thirty 
others, and the vessel drifted downstream out of action. 
Commander Porter, a brother of Commander D. D. Porter of 
the Mortar Flotilla below New Orleans, was a tough and 
ingenious sea dog. Returning from the Pacific to find his wife 
gone South and his sons in the Confederate Army, William 
Porter had obtained a divorce and an appointment to com- 
mand the Essex. The distinctive feature of the Essex, which 
rendered her so vulnerable in river fighting, was that Porter 
had rigged every mechanical device on board to be powered 
by steam. With boilers shot, she could not even operate her 
bilge pumps. Small wonder that in fright several of her 
scalded seamen jumped overboard and were drowned. The 
Cincinnati, flying Foote's pennant, received seventeen hits, 
suffered scratches on casemate and armored pilothouse, and 
minor perforations in chimneys and unarmored upper works. 

Early Operations on the ''Inland Sea" 167 

The Cincinnati lost one killed, nine wounded; the Essex one 
killed and thirty-eight casualties from steam and drowning. 
The St. Louis and the Carondelet, though receiving seven 
and six hits respectively, sustained no casualties. 

Inside Fort Henry, whose guns were no match for Foote's, 
Confederate General Lloyd Tilghman fought a delaying ac- 
tion to permit the main portion of the garrison to retire upon 
Fort Donelson. Wooden cabins within and back of Fort 
Henry were turned into torches, walls were breached, guns 
dismounted. At 1:55 P.M., an hour before Grant's men had 
slogged through the muddy woods, Tilghman raised a white 

The Confederate Commander, wringing his hands, came 
on board the Cincinnati to surrender. Foote assured Tilgh- 
man that he had defended his post like a brave man and 
quietly led him by the arm into his cabin for dinner. 

"Another fort knocked over by the Navy is my reward/' 
jubilated Fox, forgetting that the Western Flotilla belonged 
to the Army. 11 Foote's telegram announcing the victory was 
sent immediately to Congress, where it was read in both 
houses and "gave intense satisfaction.*' Secretary Welles sent 
the Navy Department's "profound thanks/* Wise, the ord- 
nance inspector who had carried Foote's daily messages to the 
President, reported to Foote: "Uncle Abe was joyful, and 
said everything of the navy boys and spoke of you in his 
plain, sensible appreciation of merit and skill. You will be 
. . . made a flag-officer for life/' 12 

The Sunday following the victory at Fort Henry, Flag 
Officer Foote, who was back in Cairo to repair his vessels, 
attended services in a little Presbyterian church. The minister 
being absent, the newly famous first American flag officer to 
fight in an ironclad vessel ascended into the pulpit and 
preached a sermon on: "Let not your hearts be troubled; ye 
believe in God, believe also in me/* a text which Foote's 
little niece living in Cleveland is said to have changed to: 
"Ye believe in God, believe also in gunboats/* 1S 

When General Grant pushed on immediately to invest 


Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, he realized that this posi- 
tion was much more powerful than that of Fort Henry. The 
latter had been improperly located on low ground with two 
miles of marsh behind it. By contrast Donelson was built on 
a series of rolling hills with batteries strategically mounted on 
their crests, the whole surrounded by flooded creeks, abatis 
of felled trees, and extensive entrenchments. Reinforced by 
the garrison from Fort Henry, it was stronger now than ever. 
Grant's first concern was to isolate Donelson to prevent its 
receiving further reinforcements from either of the Con- 
federate wing positions at Columbus and Bowling Green. 

In isolating Fort Donelson, Grant employed Foote's flotilla 
like cavalry. While Foote returned to Cairo to repair the 
injuries on the Cincinnati and the Essex,, his three mosquito 
boats under Lieutenant Commander S. L. Phelps ranged up 
the Tennessee River, destroying Confederate military sup- 
plies, capturing the Eastport, a partially built Confederate 
ironclad, and other river boats. Since Phelps failed to destroy 
the railroad bridges (the Memphis to Bowling Green at Dan- 
ville and the Memphis to Chattanooga at Florence, Alabama), 
Grant dispatched Commander Walke in the ironclad Caron- 
delet to destroy the first of these bridges and cut off Donelson 
from support coming from Columbus on the west. He then 
ordered the Carondelet around to the Cumberland River in 
the hope that she might be able to pass up above Fort Donel- 
son and isolate it while Grant's troops invested the fort on its 
land faces. The Carondelet was checked., however, by Donel- 
son's stair-stepped batteries along the river. 

On the theory that his fifteen thousand men today were 
worth more than fifty thousand next month, Grant hemmed 
in Fort Donelson's garrison of twenty-one thousand and called 
for immediate help from the gunboats. Grant's men "were 
without tents in sleeting weather and many had foolishly dis- 
carded their blankets on the march from Fort Henry. To 
support Grant, Foote found it necessary to shift crewmen 
from his disabled vessels to two new ironclads just completed, 
the Louisville and the Pittsburgxn unpopular necessity 

Early Operations on the "Inland Sea" 169 

which prompted three dozen of his men to desert the flotilla. 
Against his own better judgment, the flag officer hastened up 
the Cumberland, convoying Grant's reinforcements as he 

Foote's problem at Fort Donelson was to silence the three 
tiers of batteries on the river bluffs, and, thrusting upstream 
past the fort, to enfilade Confederate rifle pits on their left 
wing in conjunction with Grant's assault. 14 The Cumberland 
was narrower than the Tennessee and in its swifter currents 
the unwieldy gunboats lurched about. One gunboat lobbed 
a shell into another because of an unexpected swirl in the 
current. Foote attacked at 3:00 P.M. on February 14 with four 
ironclads: the St. Louis > flagship, the Garondelet, the Louis- 
ville and the Pittsburg; and two wooden gunboats: the Tyler 
and the Conestoga. As at Fort Henry, the ironclads fought in 
line abreast with bows toward the enemy batteries. The 
wooden vessels remained behind them, firing at extreme 
range. In a contest lasting an hour and a half, Foote's gun- 
boats repeatedly drove the Confederate gunners back from 
their batteries, but they always returned as soon as the flotilla 
slackened its fire. Moreover, Confederate cannon on a fifty- 
two-foot elevation had a distinct advantage when Foote moved 
up within four hundred yards, for, at this distance, the line 
of fire against the ironclads' shields becoming almost a right 
angle, they were able to penetrate the iron targets. One of the 
Carondelet's rifled guns burst during the engagement, and 
her steering gear was disabled by a shot in her wheelhouse. 
The Pittsburg received several shots in her hull, forward of 
her casemate, and a 12 8-pound shot in her pilothouse which 
sent her out of action. Shipping water, she had to shift guns 
aft to raise her injured bow out of water. One of the fifty-nine 
shots that found its way into the flagship St. Louis carried 
away her steering wheel and injured the flag officer by a pain- 
ful splinter wound on the left foot. Both the St. Louis and the 
Louisville, whose tiller ropes were cut, drifted helplessly 
downstream. The remaining boats, nursing injuries, fell out 
of action a few minutes later. 


On the sixteenth, while Foote at Cairo was preparing to 
tow up mortar rafts, Grant launched a general attack and took 
Fort Donelson. General Simon B. Buckner was captured with 
15,000 men. An estimated two thousand had fallen in battle. 

Grant's "unconditional surrender" victories at Forts Henry 
and Donelson tore open the center of the Confederate defense 
line. Up the Cumberland River, Clarksville surrendered to 
Footers gunboats on February 20. Nashville was abandoned 
in favor of a new point of defense at Murfreesboro, back 
from the gunboat-harried river. The first-line Confederate 
wing positions, Bowling Green and Columbus, were evacu- 
ated, and a new defense system, anchored on the Mississippi 
at Island No. 10, was formed, extending through Shiloh and 
Murfreesboro to Chattanooga. 

The suddenness of victory at Fort Donelson alleviated 
somewhat Northern disappointment in the mechanical fail- 
ures of the flotilla. Henceforth, every Union military com- 
mander in the West wanted gunboat support. But the vul- 
nerability of these craft to shot descending from an elevation 
upon steam drums, paddle wheels, and steering ropes, and 
the penetrability even of their thinly armored casemates and 
pilothouses were lessons not lost on the Confederates. For 
several hundred miles along the Mississippi, the Confederates 
possessed hilltop positions that were ideal for planting cannon 
to control the river. And while Farragut hammered away at 
the forts below New Orleans and Foote, with his newfangled 
ironclads and mortar rafts, threatened their position at Island 
No. 10, the Southerners busied themselves erecting batteries 
overlooking the river's horseshoe turn at Vicksburg. 

For a variety of reasons Flag Officer Foote resolved not to 
let every brigadier general interfere with him at Island 
No. 10. He now had assimilated rank with major generals in 
the Army. Although technically "on loan" to the Army, he 
had never ceased to report his acts to the Navy Department. 
Both Welles and Fox hailed his successes as "victories for the 
Navy/' The flag officer's badly bruised foot kept him on 
crutches, and he was unable to get around freely for personal 

Early Operations on the "Inland Sea 93 1*71 

inspections. He suffered chronically from headaches, and the 
death of his thirteen-year-old son William early in March 
depressed him. Furthermore, the situation at Island No. 10 
presented greater hazards to his gunboats than the up-river 
fighting, and Army men were too impatient when Foote in- 
sisted on making necessary repairs. On March 4, Foote, ac- 
cordingly, stated his new policy to Secretary Welles: "I shall 
decline moving, as I informed Generals Sherman and Cullum, 
unless I am ordered to do so by the Secretary of the Navy, as 
I must be the judge of the condition of the fleet, and when it 
is prepared for battle." 15 Uncle Gideon backed him in his 
declaration of independence from army control: "Friend, 
how gratified I have been and am with what you have 
done.' 1 16 

Island No. 10, fifty-nine miles below Cairo, lay in a loop of 
the Mississippi River a few miles above the village of Madrid, 
Missouri, and immediately opposite the sloughs and swamps 
along the northwest corner of the state of Tennessee. The 
Confederate land batteries on the island were supplemented 
by cannon on the so-called "pelican'* dry dock brought up 
from New Orleans and moored off the lower end of the island, 
and along the Tennessee shore opposite was a series of water- 
level batteries, about a mile apart and mutually supporting 
one another. The entire system of defense, comprised of about 
seventy-five guns and six thousand men, was unapproachable 
by Federal land forces from the upper river because of the 
moat formed by river and swamp. 

While Foote was repairing his disabled gunboats and 
finishing construction on his largest ironclad, the Benton, 
Major General John Pope cut a six-mile canal through 
drowned forest and seized New Madrid on the Missouri shore 
below Island No. 10. It was possible now for Pope, could he 
but ferry his men across the river, to cut off the garrisons of 
the batteries on the Tennessee shore. The Confederate troops 
had no exit from their batteries except along the river. But 
the river was too wide for Pope's own artillery to support his 
troops in this passage. Pope, therefore, peremptorily de- 


manded that Foote send down an ironclad to guard his troop 
landing on the Tennessee shore. Foote doggedly refused. 

To pass downstream an ironclad would have to present its 
unarmored stern to a succession of enemy batteries along a 
ten-mile stretch. Once below, it could not return upstream 
under its own power but would have to be towed by tugs or 
other unprotected craft. Furthermore, Footers new ironclads 
lacked maneuverability, and the Confederates were known 
to have river vessels that were prepared to use ramming tac- 
tics. Foote insisted on delaying until he could be joined by his 
largest ironclad, the Benton. The powerful Benton would be 
able from a safe distance to protect the mortar rafts while 
they in turn pounded the Confederate batteries. 

President Lincoln took a heightened interest in the affairs 
of the flotilla at this time. "Immediately upon the receipt of 
your telegram of yesterday," wrote Wise to Foote on February 
25, "I read it to the President, who instructs me to say in 
reply that the reasons for the delay of the Benton are satis- 
factory, and that he appreciates your services, which meet his 
entire approbation." 17 Three days later Lincoln approved 
Foote's request for a large wharfboat, directed Halleck to 
send Foote's gunboats out of the Cumberland as rapidly as 
possible to be repaired, and ordered Quartermaster General 
Meigs to send extra funds to the flotilla. No favor was too 
trivial to enlist the President's attention and aid. He wished 
Foote to be fully prepared "to rain the rebels out" with "a 
refreshing shower of sulphur and brimstone." 18 

Throughout the latter half of March Foote tried a cautious, 
long-range bombardment of the island and the Tennessee 
shore. Lest any of his gunboats be disabled and drift help- 
lessly through the gun-toothed jaws of Island No. 10, the flag 
officer lashed them together in pairs and trios. Thus, the 
flagship Benton was lashed between the Cincinnati and the 
St. Louis. In a battle on March 17 an eight-inch shot pene- 
trated the Bentoris plating and, after bounding around the 
lower deck, came to rest on the flag officer's writing desk. 
About the same time a rifled gun burst on board the St. Louis, 

Early Operations on the "Inland Sea" 1*73 

killing and wounding fifteen, and the Cincinnati's engines 
were crippled so badly as to necessitate towing her to Cairo 
for repairs. Mortars on scows tied to trees on the western 
bank of the river rained thirteen-inch shells weighing 215 
pounds each upon the Confederate positions. At night the 
mortar shells described fiery arcs across the sky like shooting 
stars, but their defective fuses said to have been manu- 
factured before the Mexican Waroften caused them to 
burst prematurely. They dealt but little damage to their 
widely spaced targets. 

On the night of April 1-2, Foote sent a boat party from the 
gunboats to surprise and spike the guns of the first fort on 
the Tennessee shore. The cutters from five of the gunboats, 
hugging shadows along the bank, were not discovered until 
within a few yards of the fort. Confederate sentinels fired two 
volleys and decamped into the woods while, in the swash- 
buckling style of Stephen Decatur at Tripoli, the men from 
the cutters boarded the enemy, spiked his cannon, and were 
off up the river in tow of the tug Spitfire before the startled 
defenders realized what was happening. 

The success of this boat party was a prelude for the attempt 
three nights later to run the Carondelet past the Confederate 
batteries. Commander Henry Walke, scrounging timbers 
from an old barge, improvised a shield to protect his boilers 
and engines, and piled hay, lumber, and chain cables along 
the unarmored portions of his vessel's sides. A loaded coal 
barge was lashed to her port quarter to shield magazine and 
shell rooms. Her upper deck was piled with cordwood, bags 
of coal, surplus chains, and hawsers. Cables were wound about 
the pilothouse as high up as the windows. The Carondelet , it 
was reported, "looked like a fanner's team, preparing for 
market/* 19 

The run was made on a black night under cover of a 
thunder storm. To minimize noise Commander Walke had 
made arrangements for the engineers to blow off steam in the 
covered wheelhouse rather than vent it as usual through the 
flues. The consequences of this piece of foresight was that 


soot dried in her chimneys and when she came abreast of the 
first Confederate battery a chimney blaze leaped out, illumi- 
nating the upper deck and everything around. 

During the next half hour seventy-three Rebel guns opened 
upon the presumptuous Yankee, while from their distant 
moorings upstream Foote's gunboats and mortars fired at 
the flashing Confederate batteries. Through the blackness, 
riven by gunflash, chimney fire, shellburst, and lightning, the 
Carondelet raced to safety dragging her coal barge* She 
braved the danger as quietly, reported the New York Herald., 
as "a stray washtub being pelted with pebbles by a party of 
schoolboys/' 20 Pelted she was, but not hit. Confederate 
missiles, aimed too high, whizzed over her. 

Signal guns notified Flag Officer Foote when the Carondelet 
reached New Madrid. Soldiers here cheered Commodore 
Foote and Captain Walke. With impartiality they cheered 
even the Negro cabin boy who went ashore in the gig with 
the sailors. Soldiers caught up the sailors in their arms and 
passed them from one to another. 

The Carondelet's passage proved decisive. In company 
with the Pittsburg, which ran the batteries a few nights later, 
the Union ironclad fended off the Confederate River De- 
fense Fleet and guarded the beachhead while General Pope's 
troops disembarked from transports on the Tennessee shore. 
Union General Pope now captured six thousand Confederate 
troops from the swamp-surrounded batteries whose sole 
route of escape had been along the river road to Tiptonville. 

Foote had made a wonderful start toward opening the 
Father of Waters. After building a novel river flotilla of 
considerable striking power, he had been the first American 
naval commander to fight with the new ironclads, He had 
demonstrated that, though mechanically vulnerable, they 
could stand up to, and win against, land fortifications. He had 
shown that they could successfully bypass land batteries. 
Quartermaster General Meigs suggested that Foote ignore all 
the Confederate batteries on the Mississippi and run down 
to New Orleans with his gunboats, thus relieving the possible 

Early Operations on the ee Inland Sea" 175 

danger to Farragut's wooden, fleet from the Confederate 
metal-plated vessels there. But Flag Officer Foote at fifty-six 
had aged under the strain of -war on the rivers. His swollen 
foot required rest. Increasingly he fretted over long hours at 
his desk. Like the prophet Moses with the Promised Land in 
view, he felt compelled to turn over the leadership of the 
squadron to a more active leader. 

The man he recommended, and whom Mr. Welles ap- 
pointed, was Captain Charles H. Davis, whose affable manner 
would enable him to get on well with the Army and whose 
scientific caution would discourage unnecessary risks of the 

Davis had not long to wait for his first excitement. 

At daybreak the morning after Davis took over the flotilla, 
a sharp action occurred near Fort Pillow. 21 For several weeks 
the mortars of the flotilla had been bombarding Fort Pillow, 
both from above and below the fort, and each group of 
mortar scows had one or two gunboats close by to protect it. 
At 6:00 A.M. on May 10, Confederate Commodore J. E. 
Montgomery, with eight vessels of the Confederate River 
Defense Fleet, appeared suddenly from around a curve in 
the river, bent upon cutting out the Federal ironclad Cincin- 
nati., at the moment moored four miles below the Benton. 
Several nimble Confederate vessels, their bows lightly plated 
with iron for ramming, drove into her first from one side 
then another. The Cincinnati fired into her attackers and 
temporarily disabled them, but was compelled to beach her- 
self in shoal water to keep from sinking. The ironclad Mound 
City was also damaged by ramming and had to be beached 
before the arrival of other gunboats forced the Confederate 
craft to retire. 

Had the Union ironclads now possessed steam power in 
proportion to their dead weight, they might have collected 
several disabled Rebel vessels as prizes, but under the cir- 
cumstances these damaged boats simply floated downstream 
and lived to fight again in the skirmish at Memphis on June 6. 

Since Memphis was an "open" town, evacuated by the 


military, the river fight here was not preceded by the pyro- 
technics of mortar bombardment. But for the host of citizens 
who crowded its water front the melee was not without 
spectacle. At Memphis the Federal flotilla first used vessels 
fitted for ramming. The initiative in creating the so-called 
Ellet Ram Fleet had been taken by one Charles Ellet, a river 
man who had all sorts of zeal for the Union cause and abso- 
lutely no sense of danger. Lincoln, who admired daredevils 
with ingenuity, commissioned Ellet to purchase and convert 
river steamers suitable for his purpose, and to recruit and 
drill his own crews to man them. Without guns and relying 
solely upon speed, Ellet planned "to drive [his] rams against 
the enemy's armed vessels and transports wherever they can 
be found." 22 

Flag Officer Davis surprised eight craft of the Confederate 
River Defense Fleet at their Memphis moorings early on 
June 6. While his ironclads engaged them at long range, 
Colonel Ellet's swift rams, darting out from among the 
pachyderms, converted the affair into a running melee, last- 
ing an hour and carrying the flotilla ten miles below the city. 
Of the eight Confederate steamers all but one were sunk or 
driven ashore and captured. The C.S.S. Van Dorn alone 
escaped down the river. 

With the upper reaches of the Mississippi cleared of enemy 
forts and naval craft, Flag Officer Davis descended to the 
mouth of the Yazoo River, a few miles north of Vicksburg 
where, on July i, he joined Flag Officer Farragut's seagoing 
warships that had just come up from New Orleans. 


Farragut on the River 

early May, Farragut faced the difficult question of where to 
turn next. Should he ascend the Mississippi, join forces with 
the Western Flotilla, and clear the Rebels from the great 
river? Or should he attack Mobile? The river was now at 
flood stage. If his cumbersome salt-water ships went aground 
on the hundreds of shifting bars up the river and the water 
level should fall off, he could expect no presently incoming 
tide to float him, but must sit there, perhaps all summer, 
waiting for it to rain in Kansas. In the upper river, the armor- 
clad gunboats under Flag Officer Davis were infinitely better 
suited for inland work than the Hartford or the Brooklyn., 
and Farragut personally preferred to leave the opening of the 
interior waterways to Davis. Several o Farragut's best vessels 
were too heavy to go higher than New Orleans. In fact only 
his smaller gunboats were sufficiently light in draft for river 
work and their fire power was limited. If his wooden-hulled 
ocean ships encountered the Confederate ironclad rams, 
which were reported as being built at Memphis, they could 
hardly cope with them. 

The dog-eared orders of January 20, framed by Welles and 
Lincoln before the New Orleans campaign, which Farragut 
consulted anew, did not resolve his dilemma. In fact, these 
ancient instructions squinted in both directions. "If the 
Mississippi expedition from Cairo shall not have descended 
the river, you will take advantage of the panic to push a 



strong force up the river to take all their defenses in the rear. 
You will also reduce the fortifications which defend Mobile 
Bay and turn them over to the army to hold/* * 

Farragut, splitting his forces, sent Porter's Mortar Flotilla 
to Mobile and Commander S. P. Lee with the Oneida, bearing 
nine guns, and several smaller gunboats up the river to Vicks- 
burg, "My vessels are wanted everywhere/' he wrote on May 
3. "I have sent a force up the Mississippi to Vicksburg, and 
shall soon follow. I must protect this city [New Orleans], and 
I must send a large force to Mobile, where I must be 
present/' 2 

Off Mobile the energetic Porter fumed and fretted at the 
flag officer's delay in coming to attack the forts, while in the 
river Captain T. T. Craven, the more senior skipper of the 
Brooklyn^ envied young Lee his chance for personal distinc- 
tion. As the weeks wore on, Captain Craven, an ambitious old 
man with a large family, began to resent his friend Farragut's 
penchant for giving more important commands to his juniors; 
but the flag officer did not sense this discontent until the 
climax of operations against Vicksburg, when Craven's failure 
to understand correctly his orders was construed by the half- 
sick and hot-tempered Farragut to have been deliberate. 

On the way upstream, Farragut's gunboat captains de- 
manded surrender of the river towns. Baton Rouge and 
Natchez, being undefended, allowed the Federals to raise the 
Union flag over their public buildings, but proud Vicks- 
burg, having already mounted several batteries on her Chicka- 
saw Hills, insultingly retorted "that Mississippians don't 
know and refuse to learn how to surrender to an enemy. If 
Commodore Farragut or Brigadier-General Butler can teach 
them, let them come and try/' 3 Commander Lee gave the 
city twenty-four hours' notice in which to remove women and 
children to safety and Instituted a strict blockade pending 
further orders from New Orleans. 

Farragut, meanwhile, learned that the descent of the army's 
Western Flotilla was blocked by eighteen enemy gunboats at 
Memphis, where the Confederates had constructed an iron- 

Farragut on the River 

cased ram. He dispatched a plea to Welles to send him all 
available steamers drawing less than sixteen feet, and, in 
company with a hastily improvised army attack force of 
fifteen hundred men under Brigadier General Thomas Wil- 
liams, set out up the river. 

There was now opened to the Federals a chance for a 
grand convergence upon Vicksburg which, if successful, 
might have won control of the Mississippi River. In mid-May 
of 1862, while the amphibian expedition of Farragut and 
Williams was proceeding northward from New Orleans and 
Davis with the Cairo ironclads was working downstream 
toward Memphis, Generals Halleck and Grant, with an army 
of 110,000, were waging their campaign against Corinth, 
Mississippi, a few hundred miles north and east of Vicksburg. 
It was necessary for the three Federal forces to close in quickly 
upon Vicksburg before the Confederates could entrench and 
mount new batteries,, and before the seasonal drop in the 
water level should drive Farragut's great ships back toward 
the Gulf. 

As he proceeded north, Farragut was not hopeful. Naviga- 
tion difficulties worried him. The levees stood six feet above 
the surrounding plains, and inside the river the water swirled 
within a foot of the tops of the levees. From the deck of the 
flagship Farragut could see the heads of Negroes walking 
along the river road, and the lower halves of the slave cabins 
that lined the river were shut off from view by the embank- 
ment. "All the mansion grounds are densely shaded by live 
oaks, magnolias of rather a small growth, pecans and orange 
trees/' Captain Bell noted in his diary, "nurseries for mos- 
quitoes and chills and fevers. Dwellings generally low, with 
high-pitched roofs, galleries in front and rear. Live oaks are 
grand and gloomy by their thick foliage of deep green and 
long moss pendant from their boughs. . . . Not a token of 
friendship shown today except at one county seat, where they 
hoisted the Danish flag about 8 A.M." A gunboat captain who 
had preceded Farragut returned to report that the advanced 
gunboats were short of coal, and that the Sciota was having 


to repair an engine at Natchez. The enemy were sinking all 
their own coal or burning it in advance of the fleet. Beyond 
Baton Rouge the river became hourly more difficult, "every 
gunboat/' Bell noted, "having grounded repeatedly, some of 
them three times a day." * 

Licensed river pilots were not to be found. Farragut had to 
coerce into service as pilots ordinary rivermen from steamers 
or flatboats, "but they know little or nothing of the river's 
depth or channel for vessels of our draft." 5 The salt-water 
sailors who cast the leads were ignorant of "the feel" of the 
lead against the soft bottom of Old Muddy. The Hartford 
grounded at night at Tunica Bend, two hundred miles north 
o New Orleans, her green pilots having mistaken some 
flooded bushes on the mud bar for shadows of the more 
distant forest. With a draft of sixteen feet, Farragut's dis- 
tressed flagship was now hard aground with but twelve feet 
o water under her bows and thirteen aft. Efforts to roll the 
ship by running her crew back and forth from port to star- 
board had no effect. Her guns and coal had to be shifted to 
other vessels. "I got her off in two days/' Farragut reported 
to Welles, "but my health suffered from anxiety and loss of 
sleep/' e 

Coal became more difficult to obtain as the heavy ships 
made distance upstream, and wood as fuel would barely 
enable the warships to stem the current. To the complexities 
of procuring coal from transportation-short New Orleans 
were now added the seasonal river epidemics. Plagues of 
malaria and dysentery descended upon war craft and troop- 
ship. To cap his difficulties, the accompanying military force 
was ludicrously inadequate. General Williams had a mere 
handful of troops fourteen hundred infantry and seventy- 
five artillerymen, with four field pieces all that General 
Butler could find steamers for, all, in fact, that were not 
pinned down by necessary chores of the occupation in New 
Orleans or garrison duty in the captured forts. And this 
handful were packed on board the transports "more like 
livestock than men" in filth and dirt, as their commander 

Farragut on the River 181 

testified, "to a disgusting and of course most unwholesome 
degree." 7 

Farragut reached Vicksburg on the twenty-third. Against 
the advice of several of his captains who considered navigation 
without pilots too hazardous for the heavy ships, he had 
brought up the Hartford^ the Brooklyn, and the Richmond, 
along with eight gunboats. He believed, according to Captain 
Bell, that the Vicksburg defenses would be abandoned if he 
showed a sufficiently imposing force there. He proceeded at 
once to make a reconnaissance in company with General 
Williams and the naval commanders. Riding the nimble 
Kennebec, the commanders ascended to within two miles of 
Vicksburg* s wharves. 

The city of Vicksburg lies on the east bank at the bend of 
a horseshoe in the river. A series of terraces, commencing at 
wharf level, rises to a height of 550 feet at the crest of the 
Chickasaw Hills behind the town. Since Farragut's seizure 
of New Orleans, ten guns had been erected on the heights 
below the town, overlooking the lower shank of the horse- 
shoe, and two above. Near the wharves were moored two 
Confederate gunboats. The sight of these enemy craft under 
the frowning land batteries, together with the insulting 
answer the Vicksburgers had given to Commander Lee, 
aroused in Farragut the fighting spirit of the old wood-and- 
sail Navy in which he had grown up. He called upon the gun- 
boat captains to make a surprise attack after nightfall and 
capture these enemy vessels. His captains, however, led by 
Commander Lee, indicated that they considered such an 
exploit as sheer madness. "Lee," wrote Bell, "carried his 
objection so far as to say anyone who would undertake it 
might have his vessel." 8 Farragut removed Lee as com- 
mander of the division of gunboats, replacing him with Com- 
mander James S. Palmer. The reluctance of his officers to 
undertake a daring exploit so exasperated Farragut that he 
fell ill. He had, in fact, not recovered from the nervous strain 
of the grounding at Tunica Bend. 

Across the river from Vicksburg and between the shanks 


of the horseshoe lay a tongue-shaped peninsula of water- 
puddled lowland three miles long and a mile wide. On an 
embankment running lengthwise down the center of this 
peninsula was a railroad which in normal times brought 
cattle and grain from Louisiana and Texas to Vicksburg but 
which, because of washouts during the current floods, was not 
usable. It had been one of Williams' aims to destroy this road, 
but it was needless to land his men to achieve what nature 
herself had already done and what Commander Palmer's 
blockading gunboats could accomplish with a few shells 
whenever the enemy should repair the washouts. The only 
other military objective was to storm and occupy Vicksburg 

On the final day of the reconnaissance, Farragut was con- 
fined to his ship with, illness, but he dragged himself to the 
conference of commanders which met in the Hartford's 
wardroom in the evening. General Williams said that he 
could not bring his frail transports to the wharves until after 
the fleet had silenced the heaviest hilltop batteries, and that 
then he could only attempt to scale the bluffs, spike the guns, 
and bring his men back to the ships. He could not occupy and 
hold the city with only fourteen hundred troops. His spies 
had informed him that there were eight thousand of the 
enemy within the city and that there were thouands of Con- 
federate reserves at Jackson, only forty miles distant by rail- 
road. Captains Craven, Bell, Wainwright, Lee, Russell, 
Nichols, and Donaldson all agreed that the broadsides of the 
fleet, with their horizontal fire, could not reach the highest 
batteries. Captains Palmer, Caldwell, and DeCamp wanted 
to "go into it and smash them up" because of their insult 
to Commander Lee. Captain Alden wavered, hiding his face 
in his hands, and then sided with the majority. Farragut, 
wrote Bell in his diary, "clearly wanted to chastise the enemy 
by destroying the town, but was reluctantly restrained by his 
better judgment, as the troops could not cooperate by land 
attack and spiking his guns." 9 

Leaving Palmer's gunboats to blockade Vicksburg from 

Farragut on the River 183 

below and to harass the enemy by occasional bombardments 
in order to draw off from Corinth as many Confederate 
troops as possible, Farragut the next day returned down the 
river, General Williams accompanying him. 

The Confederates, still smarting over the loss of New 
Orleans, now claimed that Farragut had been repulsed, and 
Confederate partisan rangers or guerrillas attacked the with- 
drawing Federals. Williams disembarked two companies at 
Grand Gulf to pursue a band of guerrillas, and Farragut, 
who had been compelled to supply the Army with navy salt 
pork and hard tack, restocked his own larder by levying a 
"pretty considerable haul" of Confederate cattle and poultry. 
At Baton Rouge Farragut's gunfire followed a group of 
mounted guerrillas on their retreat through the center of 
town, and General Williams, whose men on the crowded 
transports had been unable to clean up for several weeks, 
landed his entire force and took possession of this bright little 
capital of Louisiana. 

Meanwhile, two weeks before Farragut's return to New 
Orleans, Mr. Lincoln was perplexed by misleading Con- 
federate reports from the lower river. For several months he 
had been receiving daily reports from the Cairo flotilla. He 
was within reasonably speedy telegraphic communication 
with Halleck at Corinth. But with Farragut, who was operat- 
ing on the far side of enemy-held territory, Lincoln had to 
resort to fast courier steamers from Hampton Roads to New 
Orleans. After the seizure of New Orleans, the only quick 
news about Mr. Lincoln's Navy in the lower Mississippi 
River reached Washington via the Confederate press. On 
May 1 1, the Memphis Appeal carried a dispatch from Natchez 
that the Federal fleet had returned to New Orleans. 10 This 
incorrect news, relayed through Chicago and New York, 
reached Lincoln on May 16, along with the bona fide notice 
of the appearance of Union gunboats off Mobile. Fox ques- 
tioned Captain Bailey on how many vessels Farragut had sent 
up the river, and the bearer of the New Orleans victory dis- 
patches, who had departed from New Orleans on April 29, 


answered, "None." "Impossible/' exploded Fox, "the instruc- 
tions were positive/' 1X Bailey volunteered that he thought 
Farragut had forgotten those orders. Lincoln was "so dis- 
tressed" over the possibility that Farragut had gone to Mobile 
instead o Vicksburg that he had Welles and Fox send Farragut 
a dispatch in triplicate via fast steamers: 

Carry out your instructions of January 20 about ascending the 
Mississippi River, as it is of the utmost importance. 12 

And Fox in a private letter warned Farragut: 

This retreat may be a fatal step as regards our western move- 
ments, since our advance to Memphis would have been the means 
of forcing Beauregard to fight or retreat We hear of their for- 
tifying the river with the utmost expedition to prevent your 
ascent, and you may now find formidable obstacles which, you 
would not have done after the panic created by your magnificent 
dash; but still it is of paramount importance that you go up and 
clear the river with the utmost expedition. Mobile, Pensacola, 
and in fact, the whole coast sinks into insignificance compared 
with this. 13 

Lincoln's imperative orders found the flag officer in New 
Orleans licking his wounds. "The elements of destruction in 
this river/' Farragut reported to Welles, "are beyond any- 
thing I ever encountered, and if the same destruction con- 
tinues the whole Navy will be destroyed in twelve months. 
More anchors have been lost and vessels ruined than I have 
seen in a lifetime, and those vessels which do not run into 
others are themselves run into and crushed in such a manner 
as to render them unseaworthy. I have not at this moment 
one-third of the vessels fit for duty outside, and if struck by 
the ram, which they say is near Vicksburg, the Arkansas, there 
is not one that will resist her; their sides are smashed in, their 
cutwaters entirely broomed up and removed. . . . They all 
require docking ribs broken, plank-sheer gone, stems torn 
off to the wood ends, etc/' 14 

Lincoln's peremptory orders once more turned Farragut's 
battered fleet upstream to clear the river. This time he was 

Farragut on the River 185 

determined to pass above Vicksburg to join forces with Flag 
Officer Davis regardless of navigational hazards five hundred 
miles inland from his ships' native element. To reach the hill- 
top hornet nests of Vicksburg, Farragut called Porter back 
into the river. With the high-angle fire of the mortars, he 
would now attempt to smother Vicksburg while the fleet ran 
the gantlet. General Butler managed to double the number of 
soldiers under General Williams and ordered him "to take 
the town or have it burned." 15 The ever-active brain of the 
Massachusetts politician general also conceived the idea of 
trenching across the peninsula opposite Vicksburg in such a 
way as to induce the river to scour for itself a new channel 
several miles to the west of the city, so as to bypass the 
magnificent natural defense amphitheater at Vicksburg. 

On the return trip upstream every gunboat able to tow a 
coal barge or mortar schooner did so. The number of trans- 
ports, supply vessels, mortar fleet, and naval craft on this 
second expedition was three times that of the first. They 
traveled slower. To minimize damage from grounding, run- 
ing afoul of snags, and colliding with one another, Farragut 
ordered them to anchor at night. Even so, the heavy ships 
scraped bottom repeatedly. Off Union Point a brace of trans- 
ports tugged seven hours to free the Hartford, with hawsers 
parting every few minutes. Finally, a sixteen-inch manila 
stream cable was located in the Hartford's hold, and, with 
three towing vessels attached to this, the flagship was jerked 
free. "Hurrah! stream cable! All hands in high glee," recorded 
Captain Bell. "I felt sure the ship was here till next winter." 16 
Guerrillas were active in sniping, and the ships were fired on 
from freshly emplaced Confederate batteries along the bluffs 
that formed the eastern "coast" of the river. At Ellis Cliffs 
these were particularly troublesome. In retaliation, the town 
of Grand Gulf, scene of guerrilla attacks on the transports, 
was burned by the Federals. 

A month after his withdrawal, Farragut was back at his old 
anchorage below Vicksburg with his three heavy sloops-of- 
war, six gunboats, six steamers of the Mortar Flotilla, and 


sixteen mortar boats, in addition to transports and supply 

Three days were devoted to placing the mortar schooners 
in position and to preliminary bombardments to get the 
range. Although General Williams expressed a desire to co- 
operate by carrying the heights and spiking their guns, he was 
of the opinion that his force of thirty-two hundred effectives 
was too small to pit itself against an enemy garrison now 
estimated at ten thousand to fifteen thousand men. He and 
Farragut agreed that the Army should land a battery of 
artillery on the tip of the peninsula to engage the high bat- 
teries above the town. Twice the flag officer called his ship 
captains into conference for briefings on his general plan. 

Farragut's plan called for the vessels to proceed up the river 
in two columns. In the starboard column nearest Vicksburg 
were the three heavy ships led by the Richmond., and in the 
port column were eight gunboats led by the Iroquois. The 
heavy ships were to be so widely spaced as to afford the gun- 
boats ample shooting room without firing directly over the 
ships. The vessels were arranged as follows: 17 



Iroquois (]. S. Palmer) 
Oneida (S.P.Lee) 

Richmond (J. Alden) 
Wissahickon Q. DeCamp) 
Sciota (E.Donaldson) 

Hartford (R. Wainwright) 
Winona (E. T. Nichols) 
Pinola (P. Crosby) 

Brooklyn (T. T.. Craven) 
Kennebec (J.H.Russell) 
Katahdin (G. H. Preble) 

Farragut's battle instructions to his captains concluded 
with a clause which later gave trouble. After the vessels 
reached the bend in the river, four of the gunboats were to 
proceed upstream; "but should the action be continued by 

Farragut on the River 187 

the enemy, the ships and Iroquois and Oneida will stop their 
engines and drop down the river again, keeping up their fire 
until otherwise directed." 18 By this Farragut evidently meant 
that his present attack was to be no mad dash to run the 
gantlet, as below New Orleans, but a more leisurely affair, in 
which the heavy ships would take time to demolish the 
enemy's batteries; and that during the battle they would 
either receive directions from the flag officer, or conform to 
the movements of the flagship, which occupied the center of 
the starboard column. Though Farragut explained his inten- 
tion orally, it was not clearly understood by Captain Craven. 
Once at the captains' conference in the cabin and again on 
the Hartford's quarter-deck, Craven asked the flag officer: 
"Is it your desire for me to leave any batteries behind me 
that have not been silenced?" And Farragut replied, "No, 
sir; not on any account." 19 

At 2:00 A.M. on June 28 Farragut hoisted two red lights at 
the Hartford's mizzen. His fleet weighed anchor and set sail. 
Porter's mortar schooners, a division on either side of the 
river, let fly their thirteen-inch bombshells. As in the attack 
on the New Orleans forts, Porter, with the steamers of the 
Mortar Flotilla, moved upstream ahead of Farragut to attack 
the wharf batteries, while from the tip of the peninsula across 
the river General Williams's artillery (Nim's battery from 
Boston) hurled their projectiles against the batteries on the 
heights behind the town. 

Thus, Farragut's ships and gunboats churned in stately 
procession up a watery aisle that was crisscrossed overhead by 
the lights of the mortar fuses that twinkled as the shells rolled 
over and over in flight. From Vicksburg's terraced batteries 
came the heavy explosions of columbiads old-fashioned ord- 
nance of the days of 1812, but still effective against wooden 
hulls. Farragufs battleships and the two leading gunboats 
were equipped with small pivot guns on their bows, his only 
guns that could be elevated to reach the highest enemy bat- 
teries. Until the fleet came abreast of the town, it could not 
use its broadside guns. 


The Hartford, a mile behind the leading ships, opened 
fire at four-fifteen. Her broadside guns, triced up to give 
maximum elevation, let fly at batteries on a i go-foot ridge to 
the south of the town. To the surprise of Captain Bell, some 
of the Hartford's shells landed among those targets. A few 
could be seen against the morning sky flying over the ridge, 
Vicksburg's gunners, who scattered for cover when the fleet 
engaged them, returned to serve their guns the moment the 
ships turned their attention elsewhere. Many mortar shells 
burst too soon* And Captain Bell, unsympathetic toward this 
entire operation, noted that often both the mortars and the 
fleet "kept up a perfect hailstorm against the slopes where 
no guns are." 20 

The battery above the town raked Farragut severely when 
the flagship came alongside the city. "As we approached this 
fort/' wrote Bell, "and when about half a mile below it, the 
sun rose a little to the right of it, red and fiery." Day brighten- 
ing through the clouds of battle, Farragut could see that 
the Richmond, the Wissahickon : and the Sciota had already 
passed out of sight above the bend; while the Brooklyn, the 
Katahdin, and the Kennebec were behind him and still 
actively engaged. As the Hartford drove upstream, she was 
pursued by shot from two guns in the upper fort, "their shot 
striking astern and ricochetting over us and cutting our lower 
rigging severely." 21 Not two minutes earlier the flag officer 
had climbed down from a perch in the now shredded mizzen 

Milling around in the narrow and crowded river and 
wrestling with the swift current beneath the city were the 
seven steamers of Porter's Mortar Flotilla: 22 

Octorara (IX D. Porter) 

Miami (A. D. Harrell) 

/. P. Jackson (S, E. Woodworth) 

Clifton (C. H. Baldwin) 

Westfteld (W. B. Renshaw) 

Owasco (J. Guest) 

Harriet Lane (J. M. Wainwright) 

Farragut on the River 189 

Porter's steamers fought the wharf batteries and those near 
Vicksburg's hospital, which were commanded by Captain 
Todd, the Rebel brother-in-law of President Lincoln. 23 

About the time the Hartford was moving past Porter, the 
wheel ropes jammed on the Octorara and the flotilla leader 
drifted downstream among the other mortar steamers. During 
the confusion, several of these ex-ferryboats and double- 
enders were hit. The Jackson's steering wheel was shattered. 
The Clifton's boiler was ripped open, releasing clouds of 
steam which killed men in her magazine and drove others 
overboard. The Westfield was struck on her engine frame. 
Some o these vessels drifted into the line of fire of the 
Brooklyn. Shell from the latter burst off the port side of the 

Captain Craven of the Brooklyn, mistakenly understanding 
that Farragut did not wish him to pass above Vicksburg if any 
of the enemy's batteries remained unsilenced, dropped back, 
with the gunboats Kennebec and Katahdin. The flag officer, 
meanwhile, for hours after the passage of Vicksburg, worried 
himself sick over the fate of his rearmost ships. When at last 
he learned that they had suffered no casualties at all, but that 
Craven had misunderstood orders, he administered a repri- 
mand and Craven resigned. 

In the passage of Vicksburg, Farragut's ships suffered almost 
as heavily as in the run past the New Orleans forts. His 
personnel loss was sixteen killed and forty wounded. His 
ships, already battered by navigational hazards, received ex- 
tensive injury in hull and tophamper. 

Farragut had passed Vicksburg, but merely running by did 
not solve the problem. To Flag Officer Davis, who, on June 6, 
had beaten the Confederate river forces at Memphis, Far- 
ragut wrote that he needed Davis's ironclads as well as Hal- 
leek's troops in order to take Vicksburg. "I have only about 
3,000 soldiers under General Williams associated with me, 
but they are not sufficient to land in the face of all Van 

Dom*s division and Beauregard's army I will await your 

answer with great anxiety. My orders are so peremptory that 


I must do all in my power to free the river of all impedi- 
ments; that I must attack them, although I know it is use- 
less. . * ." 2 * Writing to Halleck, who had now gained posses- 
sion of Corinth, he urgently requested military assistance in 
capturing Vicksburg. "My orders, general, are to clear the 
river. . . . Can you aid me in this matter to carry out the 
peremptory order of the President?" 25 But Halleck did not 
respond, and Farragut's singlehanded naval attack failed. As 
Dave Porter forcefully expressed it in his report to his foster 
brother and flag officer: "Ships . . , cannot crawl up hills 300 
feet high, and it is that part of Vicksburg which must be taken 
by the army." 26 

The seven units of Farragut's fleet that were anchored a 
few miles above Vicksburg now offered to the Confederates 
their fairest opportunity to repeat the exploit of the Mem- 
mack against wooden ships. 

The powerful Confederate ironclad ram Arkansas had just 
been completed up the Yazoo River, which emptied into the 
Mississippi a few miles north of Farragut's anchorage. Build- 
ing the ram had been attended by incredible difficulties. Iron 
scrap and railroad rails had been gathered from all over 
western Tennessee and fabricated in Memphis. Before the 
impending Battle of Memphis, her builders had been forced 
to exchange the comparatively efficient machine shops of 
Memphis for a refuge at industrially primitive Yazoo City, 
seventy-five miles up the Yazoo River. The barge carrying 
the unfinished Arkansas' armor had sunk in the Yazoo and her 
plates had to be retrieved by divers brought in from a distance. 
Her commander, Lieutenant Isaac N. Brown, C.S.N., at swords* 
points with local authorities, had been compelled to apply to 
Jefferson Davis in Richmond in order to procure a crew for 
his vessel. If the Arkansas had sallied forth from its lair after 
Farragut's ascent above Vicksburg, it might have caught the 
Federal ships like sitting ducks. Farragut, cut off from his 
coal supply, had let his fires die down. The iron-plated 
Rebel, with steam up, maneuverable, might easily have sur- 
prised the wooden-hulled Federals at anchor without steam, 

Farragut on the River igi 

and, plunging her cast-iron beak into their vitals, she might 
have scored a second Hampton Roads, But the Arkansas lost 
three precious days and then Davis leisurely appeared with 
the river ironclads. 

The opportunity for Confederate heroics seemed to have 
passed. The two fleets of Farragut and Davis were over- 
whelmingly superior. Farragut's heavy broadsides and Davis's 
armorclad invulnerability were both complemented by the 
speedy, maneuverable, and expendable Ellet Ram Fleet of 
fast riverboats equipped for ramming. Fire power, impregna- 
bility, and an ability to ram, were, however, qualities that 
were possessed by different ships in the Federal fleet, while 
the Arkansas, though greatly outnumbered, possessed within 
herself a fair measure of each of these fighting characteristics. 

For fourteen days Farragut and Davis waited. Then they 
sent up the Yazoo a reconnaissance party consisting of the 
swift ram Queen of the West, the light gunboat Tyler, and 
the ironclad Carondelet. To their surprise and annoyance, 
the Federal scouting boats met the Rebel Arkansas charging 

They turned and ran with the Arkansas hot in pursuit. 27 
In the course of their running fight, both the Carondelet and 
the Arkansas grounded on a sand bar. The Confederate iron- 
clad, being on the outside, got off first and continued her 
downstream run. 

The Tyler and the Queen had no time to announce her 
approach before the Arkansas, firing bow guns and both 
broadsides, bludgeoned her way through the combined 
Federal fleets. 

Both Farragut and Davis were unready in their engine 
rooms, with only low fires or none. Broadside after Federal 
broadside was unloaded against the slanted, tallow-greased 
iron sides of the intruder, but few shots left a mark. The 
ArkansaSj after running the gantlet, took shelter under the 
guns of exultant Vicksburg. 

The chagrined and humiliated Farragut the same night 
ran back down past Vicksburg. With him went two of Davis's 


boats, the Ironclad Essex, under William D. Porter, and the 
light ram vessel General Sumier, under Henry Erben, whose 
assignments were to ram and closely engage the Arkansas in 
an effort to sink her. Again Farragut's passage was made under 
cover of mortar fire, this time with the mortars of Davis 
added to those below the Confederate stronghold. And Davis, 
with the Benton and other river ironclads, dropped down 
almost to the tip of the peninsula to afford gunnery support. 

The passage down was made after nightfall. The wharf 
area, where the Arkansas was moored, was too dark, and eyes 
in the fleet were too blinded by gun flashes to pick out the 
Rebel ram. Farragut was depressed by a sense of frustration 
and failure. The Arkansas 9 humiliating dash through the 
fleets had exacted a toll of eighteen killed, fifty wounded, and 
ten missing. 

In vain Farragut now tried to spur Davis into a cooperative 
daylight assault on Vicksburg in an effort to overwhelm the 
Arkansas. Farragut proposed to battle Vicksburg while Davis's 
ironclads destroyed the Confederate ram. "We know by ex- 
perience," Farragut argued, "having twice passed these forts, 
that we can keep them well employed, so that you can have 
full play at the ram, and we will be able to help you occa- 
sionally." 2S Davis, however, leaned toward prudence. His 
unwieldly ironclads could not stem the current of the Mis- 
sissippi without a tow, and wooden steamers capable of serv- 
ice as tugs could easily be sunk by Vicksburg's cannon. 

When Farragut a short time later received Secretary 
Welles's authorization for him to leave Vicksburg and devote 
himself to the operations of the Gulf blockade, Farragut de- 
parted without regret. His ships required extensive repair, 
many of his men were ill, Farragut himself was suffering 
intermittently from "nervous fever." Of General Williains's 
thirty-two hundred men, only eight hundred were fit for 
service in mid-July; consequently he retired to Baton Rouge 
when the fleet went down. Flag Officer Davis, complaining 
that Wllliams's withdrawal made a close blockade of Vicks- 

Farragut on the River 193 

burg impractical, withdrew his vessels upstream to the mouth 
of the Yazoo. 

The Confederate land attack of August 5 made Baton 
Rouge untenable for General Butler's meager forces, and the 
remnants of the Baton Rouge garrison were withdrawn after 
General Williams was killed in action. The ram Arkansas, in 
chronic difficulty with her engines, broke down a few miles 
above Baton Rouge. Here she was discovered and brought 
under fire by the U.S.S. Essex, under Captain W. D. Porter. 
After several hits had been scored upon her, she was set afire 
and abandoned by her crew. 

In Washington Mr. Lincoln and his advisers seem to have 
had little real appreciation of the military situation on the 
lower river. Evidently they did not expect General Butler, 
with only enough troops for the occupation of New Orleans, 
to wage a land campaign from Baton Rouge to Vicksburg; 
otherwise they would have sent more troops to New Orleans 
at the outset of the New Orleans campaign. Nor, later, after 
Farragut had indicated the necessity for troops, were any 
sent. Mr. Lincoln seems to have relied a great deal upon the 
hope of uncovering much Union sentiment among the people 
along the rivers once his naval forces appeared on the river 
to give them protection. And he seems to have misjudged 
completely the implacable temper of the Confederate guer- 
rillas which had made it necessary for Farragut to burn the 
towns of Grand Gulf, Mississippi, and Donaldsonville, 


Combined Attacks on Vicksburg 
and Port Hudson (Part One] 

ation on the Western rivers in the latter half of 1862 required 
change of commanders, reorganization and increase of forces, 
and readjustment to new modes of attack. 

The purely naval assault on Vicksburg had made the attrac- 
WITH DAVIS'S RIVER IRONCLADS. But at best it had been only a 
gesture, impermanent and futile, which failed to shake Rebel 
control over Vicksburg. The military evacuation of Baton 
Rouge in August thrust Farragut back upon New Orleans as 
a base, and this, along with Davis's withdrawal to Memphis, 
was signalized by Confederate repossession of the Vicksburg 
to Shreveport railroad. Once again by rail the vital grain, beef 
and blockade-run supplies from Texas were hauled east to the 
peninsula opposite Vicksburg and ferried across the river 
under the protection of Vicksburg's guns. Confederate sup- 
plies also reached Vicksburg's wharves by steamer from 
Shreveport via the Red River. Below the mouth of the Red 
River at Port Hudson, Louisiana, at a location similar to 
Vicksburg's, the Confederates erected land batteries which 
defied the Lincolnite gunboats in the lower river. 

Lincoln's problem on the Mississippi would have been 
greatly simplified had the Confederates merely clung to the 
strategic midsector of the Mississippi. However, just as in 


Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 195 

Virginia, General Lee followed a defensive-offensive strategy 
in holding before Richmond while striking from the valley 
to menace Washington, so in the West the Confederates 
fought defensively at Vicksburg and Port Hudson while send- 
ing surprise cavalry raids deep into Union-held territory. In 
western Tennessee and Kentucky, General Nathan Bedford 
Forrest ("Get there fustest") and the wily raider, General 
John H. Morgan, destroyed Federal supply depots and inter- 
rupted use of the rivers in areas well behind the Union lines. 
If the Vicksburg and Port Hudson forts had converted the 
Middle West's extensive system of water highways into a land- 
locked lake, the occasional interruption of traffic by Con- 
federate raiders and guerrillas tended to dry up that lake. 
Throughout the President's native Middle West, the crops of 
a second year piled up in warehouses. Newspapers begged the 
government to open the Mississippi to let the products of the 
great West reach hungry markets at New Orleans and beyond. 
Lincoln's party lost strength in the congressional elections, 
as Copperheads and defeatists like Vallandigham won the 
votes of purse-pinched fanners. 

To meet the growing crisis, Lincoln's government reor- 
ganized the Western forces by transferring the gunboat fleet 
from the Army to the Navy. Despite the misgivings of Secre- 
tary Welles, who could not forget the Powhatan episode, 
David D. Porter, the youthful and energetic commander of 
Farragut's Mortar Flotilla, was jumped up to acting rear 
admiral and assigned to command the navy's new Mississippi 
Squadron. "Porter is but a Commander/' Welles brooded in 
his journal. "He has, however, stirring and positive qualities, 
is fertile in resources, has great energy, excessive and some- 
times not overscrupulous ambition, is impressed with and 

boastful of his own powers Is given to cliquism but is 

brave and daring like all his family. He has not the con- 
scientious and high moral qualities of Foote . . . but his field 
of operation is peculiar and a young and active officer is 
required/' * 

To assure an adequate military force to operate down the 


river with the fleet, Lincoln shifted several top generals and 
created a special army to be called the Army of the Missis- 
sippi. "Old Brains" Halleck, the snail-paced victor of Corinth, 
was called to Washington as general-in-chief and Grant was 
elevated to full command of the Army of the Tennessee, now 
operating in the northern part of the State of Mississippi. It 
was Lincoln's personal belief, apparently, that the existing 
armies in the West were needed precisely where they were, 
and that they had all they could do to handle the problems 
in their immediate fronts, plus nuisance raids in their rear 
by Forrest, Morgan, and the guerrillas. At any rate, Lincoln 
personally commissioned an energetic politician and fellow 
townsman, John A. McClernand, to recruit and organize the 
new Army of the Mississippi for joint action with the Navy 
against Vicksburg "to clear the Mississippi River and open 
navigation to New Orleans." 2 Lincoln's ill-considered ap- 
pointment of McClernand hatched trouble for Army and 
Navy in the West. Neither Halleck nor Grant was consulted 
or even informed of it until conflicts of command jurisdiction 
arose. McClernand himself, nursing illusions of grandeur as 
"author and actual promoter" of the Vicksburg campaign and 
not above trading on his influence with the President, became 
in fact an incubus in the inner circle of Grant's commanders 
whose presence embarrassed the commanding general and 
made necessary a shift in his plan of campaign. 3 

In New Orleans, too, there was a shift of commanders. 
Farragut remained at the head of the Western Gulf Blockad- 
ing Squadron, but General Butler, whose brusque treatment 
of pro-Secessionist foreign consuls had stirred up trouble for 
him in the State Department, had to yield his billet as 
military commander to another Massachusetts politician gen- 
eral, Nathaniel P. Banks. The latter took with him to New 
Orleans a small but welcome reinforcement of troops which 
could cooperate with Farragut against the Confederate strong- 
hold of Port Hudson. 

Although Stanton resisted the transfer of the river gun- 
boats to the Navy, the War Department's unified control had 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 197 

encountered difficulties. Too often Western generals had tried 
to operate the gunboats like cavalry, and impractical orders 
had brought misunderstanding and friction. In view o the 
vast new chore of organizing and administering naval con- 
voys on the Western rivers a task made imperative by raiders 
and guerrillas Lincoln sided with Secretary Welles and 
placed the two services on terms of equality. After October i, 
when the gunboats of the Western Flotilla were transferred to 
the Navy, there appeared a doubt as to whether the unarmed 
craft of the Ellet Ram Fleet constituted gunboats in the sense 
named in the Congressional act. Admiral Porter, feeling his 
oats in his new job, ordered the Ellet rams tied up to the 
bank until the matter could be settled in Washington. 

Since Stanton obstructed the transfer on the technicality 
that the Ellet vessels were not gunboats, the matter had to be 
threshed out in the Cabinet. "Stanton lost his temper, so we 
beat him/* wrote Fox to Porter. "The cool man always wins. 
Let me impress upon you to be incontrovertibly right in case 
of a difference with the Army. The President is just and 
sagacious. Give us success; nothing else wins/* 4 

During his first weeks at Cairo, the new navy base, Porter 
readied his fresh-water squadron for the forthcoming joint 
operations against Vicksburg. 5 Reducing army-recruited 
crews to proper naval ratings was ticklish business, though 
necessary in order to maintain the morale of the salt-water 
seamen who had joined the squadron. Establishing a hospital 
on shore relieved the makeshift gunboats of sufferers from 
routine maladies, but four hundred men debilitated by river 
fever had to be given medical discharge. Porter canceled the 
too-frequent sinkings of decks and ordered more extensive 
use of drying stoves. Frequent inspections required rugged re- 
cruits from cornfield and forest to wear their underflannels 
according to navy regulations. 

Construction of new vessels and repair o old were pushed 
in the river towns from Cincinnati to 3t Louis: shallow- 
draft ironclads secretly destined for Farragut in the Gulf, 
tinclads capable of floating "wherever the ground was a little 


damp/' tiny dispatch vessels, and palatial headquarters craft 
like Porter's flagship the Black Hawka floating hotel with 
comfortable cabins for the admiral's staff, a piano in the 
wardroom, and stalls for cows and horses. 

While waiting for General McClernand to recruit his army 
in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa, Porter replaced the scored 
decks of the Pook turtles and fitted them with latest model 
Dahlgren guns. He established under Captain Henry Walke 
an advanced division of gunboats to patrol the Mississippi 
between Helena and Vicksburg, and another under Com- 
mander Le Roy Fitch to patrol the Ohio, Tennessee, and 
Cumberland Rivers. An epidemic of guerrilla attacks upon 
the river towns, which threatened the communications of the 
various armies, brought a flurry of army appeals for gunboat 
assistance. "There are so many generals acting independently 
of each other/' Porter in late November declared, "that the 
whole American Navy could not comply with their de- 
mands." * 

To free his hands for fighting at Vicksburg, Porter cracked 
down alike on Yankee traders and Rebel guerrillas. "There is 
no impropriety in destroying houses supposed to be affording 
shelter to rebels, and it is the only way to stop guerrilla war- 
fare/' reads one of Porter's general orders. 7 "Should innocent 
persons suffer it will be their own fault, and teach others that 
it will be to their advantage to inform the Government 
authorities when guerrillas are about certain localities." 8 
Peacetime water-borne traffic with small Kentucky towns not 
garrisoned by Federal troops was suspended. Too many slip- 
pery Yankee traders flouted Treasury regulations and carried 
forbidden supplies to such places. Once there they were 
"robbed" at pistol point by conniving guerrillas. The admiral 
notified the Treasury agent at Memphis of his intention to 
stop all contraband. "The temptation to deal in contraband 
is very great just now, and there is no knowing how long the 
war may be prolonged if the trade is not arrested." 9 Guerrilla 
actions multiplied during low stages of water, when even 
shallow-draft wooden gunboats had difficulty navigating the 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 199 

sand bars in the Ohio. Porter ordered his patrol craft to 
impound all ferries so as to leave the guerrillas no means o 
crossing rivers and to destroy all small boats which might 
carry intelligence. All Rebel property was ordered captured. 
"That is the way to put down the rebellion. I am no advocate 
for the milk and water policy." 10 

In October when Admiral Porter and General McClernand 
had met in Washington, McClernand had set early December 
as the time when he expected to move on Vicksburg, and 
Porter had agreed to that date. By starting before the high- 
water season, the troops might thus have dry ground on which 
to land to the north of Vicksburg. Following their meeting, 
Porter had come west to the naval base at Cairo, McClernand 
had set up his recruiting headquarters at Springfield, and 
neither took advantage of the rail and telegraph connections 
between Springfield and nearby Cairo to communicate with 
the other. Porter knew that McClernand's recruits were 
passing through Cairo on their way to Memphis, where 
Grant's right hand, W. T. Sherman, was supervising their 
training as soldiers. From the papers Porter learned that 
McClernand was getting married. December arrived, with 
still no word from the honeymooning political general. 

On December 14 Porter embarked down the river to sup- 
port Sherman's attack on Vicksburg. 

McClernand from Springfield telegraphed Halleck request- 
ing orders to proceed down the river. Twenty-four hours 
later, having received no reply, he wired to Lincoln: "I be- 
lieve I am superseded. Please inquire and let me know 
whether it is and shall be so." " 

McClernand's telegrams brought clarification of a situa- 
tion which for weeks had puzzled Halleck and Grant. On the 
eighteenth Grant at Oxford, Mississippi, received the Presi- 
dent's orders to divide his forces into four army corps, one 
of which commanded by McClernand VMS "to form a part of 
the expedition on Vicksburg." 12 In turn Grant's telegram 
bearing these instructions did not reach McClernand for 
several weeks, because of wholesale enemy snipping of Grant's 


telegraph lines down the Tennessee River and the confusion 
incident to the Confederate capture of Grant's supply dump 
at Holly Springs. McClernand's orders to proceed down river 
were thus held up, so that he did not reach Vicksburg until 
the bell had struck at the end of the first round of fighting. 

Porter reached Memphis on December 18. The river being 
very low, he had lost time by grounding on Island No. 23. 
Sherman, with twenty thousand men, embarked on forty-odd 
passenger steamers and was convoyed downstream by the gun- 
boats. At Helena, twenty more paddle steamers with General 
Steele's thirteen thousand troops were added to the expedi- 

The threefold plan of the joint operation involved Porter, 
Sherman, and Grant. A few miles above Vicksburg Porter was 
to sweep the lower Yazoo River of Confederate torpedoes and 
cover Sherman's landing. Already Captain Walke of the ad- 
vanced gunboat division was busy removing torpedoes. The 
Yazoo flows into the Mississippi River about twelve miles 
north of Vicksburg, and the Chickasaw Bluffs, which bend 
to the right at Vicksburg, meet the Yazoo at Drumgould's 
Bluff about fifteen miles to the northeast of the Rebel strong- 
hold. Upon the triangle bounded by the Mississippi, the lower 
Yazoo, and the line of hills between Vicksburg and Drum- 
gould's, General Sherman was to disembark his troops and 
assault the Chickasaw fortifications. Sherman hoped to cross 
quickly the low country at the base of the hills, to scale the 
bluffs, and, getting in behind Vicksburg, to cut off the city's 
rail connection with Jackson. At Drumgould's the Ghickasaw 
Hills touch the Yazoo and continue to fringe that generally 
north-south waterway as it bends In a graceful, scimitarlike 
curve, convexly toward the east. To insure the success of 
Sherman and Porter, General Grant part three of the plan 
with forty thousand troops, projected a march south from 
Oxford, Mississippi, on the comparatively high ground to the 
east of the Yazoo River. Here Grant would attack and try to 
force the Confederates to draw reserves from Vicksburg 
while Sherman and Porter stove in Vicksburg's back door. 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 201 

The Confederates were well prepared to resist the backdoor 
assault. Between the Chickasaw Hills and the lower Yazoo lay 
a moat of marsh and drowned forest, crisscrossed by sluggish 
creeks and bayous. The country's half-dozen scattered planta- 
tions, so many islands of dry land reclaimed by dikes, were 
occupied by Confederate pickets and skirmishers. The few 
practicable roadways from the Yazoo to the hills were the 
man-made embankments around the bayous and a narrow 
corduroy road extending beyond Chickasaw Bayou, and these 
roadways were completely commanded by cannon emplaced 
on the Chickasaw Hills. The Yazoo River itself had been 
blocked by piles and sunken hulks at Dramgould's Bluff, and 
the entire lower river had been sown with torpedoes which, 
although crudely manufactured, were deadly. 

While the Federal armada was steaming down the Missis- 
sippi, Porter learned of his first casualty from torpedoes. The 
ironclad Cairo,, while sweeping for torpedoes, had been sunk 
by one in the lower Yazoo. Although her skipper, young 
Tom Selfridge, had run her injured bow onto a shoal, she 
had filled and skidded back into deep water, leaving only the 
tips of her funnels above water to mark her grave. 

Porter and Sherman reached the mouth of the Yazoo on 
Christmas Eve, while the weather was yet dry and the water 
in the river at low stage. Porter sent gunboats to finish sweep- 
ing the Yazoo while Sherman burned three miles of railroad 
trestle west of Vicksburg. The heavy ironclad Benton, under 
Lieutenant Commander William Gwin, guarded, like a fire- 
spitting mother hen, the seven light-draft wooden steamers 
while they fished out the torpedoes. When Confederates fired 
on the Federals from an ambush on the plantation of the late 
Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, Gwin sent men 
ashore to burn the plantation house with its sugar refinery, 
sawmill, cotton gin, and quarters for three hundred slaves. 
The levee on the south bank, thirty feet above the low level 
in the Yazoo and covered by live oak, willow, and a tough 
matting of vines, afforded excellent cover for snipers. 13 The 
Benton answered the snipers with heavy rifled shot, which 


splintered trees and tore furrows in the bank but failed to 
rout the Confederates. Sherman sent several regiments of 
sharpshooters to ax their way through brush and brier and 
rout the snipers, so that the torpedoes could be cleared. 

Two days behind schedule, Sherman landed his troops near 
Chickasaw Bayou. The delay enabled the Confederates to 
entrench along the crest of the hills between their forts. Con- 
federate cannon now fended off most of Sherman's force as 
they tried to negotiate the bayou levees and the single cor- 
duroy road through the swamp. An heroic regiment which 
reached the foot of the bluffs was decimated by fire from the 
new trenches, and its survivors were penned in until night- 
fall under an overhanging cliff. During the second day of 
Sherman's maneuvers on shore, rain fell in sheets to mire 
down guns and horses. Brigadier General F. P. Blair's mount 
sank to the belly in the muck, and the general was compelled 
to slog ahead on foot. 

Meanwhile, Porter, too far away to reach the hilltop bat- 
teries in Sherman's front, proceeded upstream to bombard 
Drumgould's Bluff. "My object," Porter reported, "was to 
draw off a portion of the troops from Vicksburg to prevent 
our ascent of the Yazoo." 14 After the channel had been 
thoroughly dragged, four ironclads and three wooden boats 
moved up and anchored behind a tree covered point across 
which they fired at Drumgould's. 

The Benton, the most powerful ironclad and in the lead- 
ing position, was too squat on the water for Commander 
Gwin to see over the trees. Rather than fire blindly, Gwin 
steamed beyond the curve and so moored his cumbersome 
craft that by puEing and slacking on her lines he could 
alternately fire bow and starboard guns. In this position, how- 
ever, she was in plain view of the Confederates. The latter 
now directed all their fire upon the Benton and struck her 
repeatedly. Her slanted four-inch armor, greased with tallow, 
was proof against shot, but she had weak spots. Her funnels 
were knocked off; shot entered through her gunports and 
plunged through the lightly armored deck above her case- 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 203 

mate. Inside the casemate one man was killed and eight were 
wounded. Throughout the unequal battle, Commander Gwin 
refused to enter the armored pilothouse, but exposed himself 
on deck to direct the Benton's fire. "A captain's place is on 
the deck," he said. 15 Within minutes an enemy projectile 
glanced from the Benton's casemate, struck Gwin, tearing off 
the muscles of his right breast and arm, and causing his death 
a few days later. After an engagement lasting an hour and a 
half, the gunboats retired downstream. The "old warhorse" 
looked feeble enough with funnels gone, steam down, and 
hobbling between two wooden paddle steamers, but, as Porter 
wrote, "the Benton . . . though much cut up, is ready for 
anything/* 16 

Sherman's attack on the northern flank of Vicksburg was 
repulsed with a loss of two thousand men. The Confederates 
had enjoyed every advantage of position, while the Federals 
suffered every disadvantage lack of roads, swampy terrain, 
heavy rains, failure of expected support from Grant. The 
rumble of railroad trains which Sherman's men heard behind 
Vicksburg had been caused by the arrival not of Grant's men 
but of Confederate reserves who had been released by the 
slackening of Grant's pressure further north. On the day of 
Sherman's departure from Memphis (and unknown to Sher- 
man for more than a week), Confederate General Earl Van 
Dorn had captured Grant's base of supplies at Holly Springs, 
Mississippi. Synchronized with this had been strikes further 
north by Bedford Forrest, who had crossed the Tennessee, 
threatened Fort Pillow and Columbus with recapture, and 
caused the fearful Federal commander occupying Island 
No. 10 to roll his fifty-one heavy guns into the Mississippi 
River. The havoc had prevented Grant's carrying through his 
part against Vicksburg. 

On the thirtieth, while yet ignorant of Grant's predica- 
ment, Sherman withdrew his men to the transports. Vicks- 
burg, he conceded, was invulnerable to attack from the Yazoo 
swamps. Sherman proposed to Porter that they attack Drum- 
gould's. The water level in the river was rising. They might 


remove the obstructions and, pushing up the Yazoo, join 
forces with Grant and attack Vicksburg from the rear. But 
the following day the move on Drumgould's was discouraged 
by a dense fog. While they waited in the fog, two other facts 
ended their tentative plan. A careless towboat captain 
rammed a coal scow and sank Porter's reserve of precious 
coal. All the transports and the light-draft wooden gunboats 
burned wood, replaceable from forests along the bank, but 
the ironclads were compelled to use anthracite. So cramped 
were their compartments that they could not carry more 
than a few tons at a time and had continually to be refueled 
from barges. Sherman, too, was embarrassed. His ammunition 
boat Blue Wing, while en route from Memphis, was captured 
by Confederate raiders and carried up the Arkansas River to 
a fort and cavalry base known as Arkansas Post. To make a 
quick expedition to capture that Rebel stronghold would at 
once eliminate a menace to river communications, relieve 
coal and ammunition shortages by placing the expedition 
closer to its sources of supply, and, most important in a 
political sense, remove the sting of the defeat at Chickasaw 
Bluffs. At the moment of Porter's and Sherman's decision to 
attack Arkansas Post, General McGlernand appeared, bring- 
ing with him on board his headquarters boat his bride, her 
several maids, and quantities of baggage, together with news- 
paper men and politicians. 


Combined Attacks on Vicksburg 
and Port Hudson (Part Two] 


President's commission, he took over from Sherman the com- 
mand of the army his own personally recruited troops which 
the "crazy" West Pointer had run off with and rechristened 
it "Army of the Mississippi." * He was still at the boiling 
point when he and Sherman later the same day boarded the 
naval flagship Black Hawk for a conference with Porter. It 
was near midnight and Porter, who had retired, received 
them in his nightshirt. Could Porter provide gunboat support 
for a joint attack on Arkansas Post? Porter could, indeed, but 
his gorge arose over McClernand's insolence toward Sherman. 
Sherman took Porter aside. "My God, Porter! You will ruin 
yourself if you talk that way to McClernand. He is very 
intimate with the President and has powerful influence." "I 
don't care who or what he is. Ill be damned if he shall be 
rude to you in my cabin!" 2 

Porter picked three of his best ironclads for the mission 
to Arkansas Post, and, to blank out the late frustration at 
Vicksburg, decided to go himself. Two angry generals and a 
naval commander now plowed up the Arkansas River to 
attack Arkansas Post. At intervals the vessels were tied up to 
the banks to cut firewood from the forest. To conserve coal, 
a pair of wood-burning transports towed each of the armored 
turtles, the Baron DeKalb, the Louisville, and the Cincinnati. 


Along the river Confederate planters drove their hogs and 
cattle into the woods and either barged their grain upstream 
ahead of the invaders, or emptied it into the water as the 
gunboats hove in sight. 

The Post of Arkansas, 60 miles above the mouth of the 
river and 117 below Little Rock, was situated in lowland with 
elevation barely above floodwater. Its defense work, Fort 
Hindman, had a casemated section of oak and railroad iron, 
mounting two nine-inch guns. Unlike the high gun nests at 
Vicksburg, this flat-country fort lay vulnerable to the hori- 
zontal fire of gunboats. Confederate Brigadier General Tom 
Churchill's five thousand men stood ready to fend off Mc- 
Clernand's thirty-two thousand and Porter's fleet, 

McClemand's troops, commanded in the field by Sherman 
(XV Corps) and George W. Morgan (XIII Corps), after futile 
maneuvering through swamps in efforts to flank the Con- 
federate entrenchments, made ready for a head-on assault 
across a cotton field. Porter's slanted iron walls were smeared 
with a thick coating of tallow to repel boarders. As was ex- 
pected, the battle on Sunday, January 11, was a one-sided 
affair. Porter's turtles shot up the fort from close range and 
enfiladed the more distant trenches. During the action Porter 
circulated among the ironclads on a fast tug to cheer his men 
and take personal charge of firefighting when a blaze was 
reported to have broken out on board the Cincinnati. 

The Confederates inside the fort endured the naval fire 
until their casemates had been battered in and their best 
guns dismounted. Then they shook out the white flag, and 
Colonel Dunnington personally surrendered to Admiral 
Porter, who scrambled ashore to receive the surrender. "You 
can't expect men to stand up against the fire of those gun- 
boats," men of the garrison told Porter.* General Churchill, 
his trenches enfiladed by gunboats, surrendered under protest 
to McClernand. All told the Federal bag was 4,791 prisoners, 
563 horses, and the unexpended remainder of the shot and 
shell the Johnny Rebs had captured in Sherman's ammuni- 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 207 

tion boat the Blue Wing* Inside the fort Porter found the 
Blue Wing's mail pouchesempty. 

McClernand's report, awarding the victory to himself and 
scarcely mentioning the Navy, was telegraphed from Mem- 
phis, and reached Washington ahead of Porter's, which was 
forwarded from Cairo. Mr. Welles, nettled by the slowness of 
naval communications, issued an order to speed them up. 
The good tidings from Arkansas Post offset several melan- 
choly events. The celebrated Ericsson Monitor^ en route to 
join Du Font's force at Charleston, foundered in heavy seas 
off Cape Hatteras, and the Confederates regained Galveston, 
sinking the blockader Harriet Lane and burning the Clifton 
vessels that had won distinction in Porter's Mortar Flotilla 
at New Orleans. 

Meanwhile, McClernand's peremptory treatment of Sher- 
man at Vicksburg and his pointing the Vicksburg attack 
forces away from its prime objective worried Lincoln and 
Halleck and alarmed Grant. 

On the eleventh, before hearing of the victory at Arkansas 
Post, Grant at Memphis warned McClernand to abstain from 
all moves not connected with "the one great result, the cap- 
ture of Vicksburg." "I do not approve of your move on the 
Post of Arkansas while the other is in abeyance. It will lead 
to the loss of men without a result. So long as Arkansas cannot 
reinforce the enemy east of the river we have no present 
interest in troubling them." 5 Through Halleck, Lincoln 
annulled McClernand's special commission. "You are hereby 
authorized," wrote Halleck to Grant on the twelfth, "to re- 
lieve General McClernand from command of the expedition 
against Vicksburg, giving it to the next in rank, or taking it 
yourself." 6 McClernand squawked to Lincoln: "I believe 
my success here is gall and wormwood to the clique of West 
Pointers who have been persecuting me for months." 7 Grant 
now made a personal inspection of McClernand's forces after 
their return to Milliken's Bend. He conferred with Porter 
and Sherman, as well as McGlernand, and decided that he 
must himself assume personal command in this area. 


"I found there was not sufficient confidence felt in General 
McClernand as a commander, either by the Army or Navy, 
to insure him success/' Grant reported to Halleck. "This is a 
matter I made no inquiries about, but it was forced upon me. 
As it is my intention to command in person, unless otherwise 
directed, there is no special necessity of mentioning this 

matter Admiral Porter told me that he had written freely 

to the Secretary of the Navy, with the request that what he 
said might be shown to the Secretary of War." 8 

Happily Lincoln was resilient enough to admit a mistake. 
When McClernand made "political speech" protests against 
Grant's assumption of command on the river and his demo- 
tion of McClernand to the command of a single corps (XIII), 
Lincoln ignored them; and later, when Grant finally removed 
the President's fellow townsman for incompetence in the 
field, Lincoln accepted Grant's action. 

What rendered the McClernand appointment unfortunate, 
however, was that it warped Grant's plan of campaign at the 
outset. "If General Sherman had been left in command here 
[on the river]/ 1 Grant explained to Halleck's aide, "such is my 
confidence in him that I would not have thought my presence 
necessary/' d Grant's advance south from Oxford to the rear 
of Vicksburg might then have proceeded according to Grant's 
original plan, with Sherman and Porter standing ready to 
attack Vicksburg from its water side in conjunction with 
Grant's attack from the east. Indeed, after Grant had reduced 
McClernand, Sherman urged him to return to Memphis and 
proceed to Vicksburg via Oxford and Jackson, as he had at 
first planned. Intolerable rains had so flooded the country 
along the river that operations there for the next several 
months would likely be of doubtful value. But Grant had set 
his hand to the plough. 

From January to April, Grant and Porter battled the Mis- 
sissippi River and the flooded forest and river-bottom fields, 
through which they attempted to turn the flanks of Vicksburg, 
to bypass its frowning batteries, to blockade Vicksburg, and 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 209 

to interrupt the free use by the Confederates of the Red 
River highway. 

A project in which Lincoln now showed renewed interest 
was the canal across Young's Point. Started by General Wil- 
liams the year before, a finished canal at that time might 
have enabled transports, supply craft, and light-draft naval 
vessels to bypass Vicksburg. Halleck relayed Lincoln's wishes 
to Grant, and Welles wrote Porter urging full cooperation 
whenever the Army should set about the project in earnest. 10 
Grant and Porter inspected the site. The upper end of the 
ditch they found to have been improperly located at an eddy 
in the river. They blocked out a new opening farther up- 
stream where they hoped the current might be made to sweep 
directly into the canal. At Lincoln's suggestion, four idle 
dredging machines were brought down from St. Louis to 
assist the several hundred stump-grubbing Negroes and the 
five-hundred-man details of troops that were assigned from 
Sherman's corps which was encamped nearby on the levee. 
These machines worked nobly, until they neared the southern 
end of the ditch. Then the Confederates opened upon the 
dredgers with a new battery, which the soldiers christened 
" Whistling Dick." Work had to be suspended and the use- 
lessness of the canal as a means of avoiding the enemy's 
cannon became apparent, for the Confederates had now ex- 
tended their line of hilltop batteries down to Warrenton, 
some twelve miles below Vicksburg. Finally, the work of 
many weeks was ruined when the embankment caved in 
prematurely and the ditch was flooded with placidly swirling 
mud without a sufficient force of current to sluice it through 
the now useless canal. "Big Ditch," however futile as a means 
of bypassing Vicksburg, did cause the Confederates to spread 
out their forces and their heavy guns over a great length of 
territory, and it provided Grant's men with busy work at a 
time when they were restricted by floods to the levee itself 
and to crowded quarters on board transports. 

Having had little faith in the canal from the start, Grant 
set in motion two expeditions to flank Vicksburg. One was an 


army effort to discover a route through the western lowlands, 
commencing with Lake Providence and moving through con- 
necting bayous to the Red River. Had this passage proved 
feasible, Grant might have joined forces with General Banks 
and Admiral Farragut off Port Hudson. Confederate supplies 
from the Red River would have been cut off and the Army 
could have secured a foothold on the east bank of the Mis- 
sissippi to operate from the south and east against Vicksburg. 
But after a thorough reconnaissance this route was abandoned. 

A promising operation undertaken at the same time in 
early February was a joint army-navy expedition across the 
northern end of the Yazoo delta. Opposite the town of Helena, 
Arkansas, army engineers blasted the levee to flood an aban- 
doned barge canal known as the Yazoo Pass. Through the 
Yazoo Pass, the Coldwater and the Tallahatchee, Porter and 
Grant proposed to send an expedition into the upper Yazoo 
River. If they could clear the Yazoo above the obstructions 
in the river and the hilltop batteries at Haynes's Bluff, they 
could at once cut off Vicksburg from its "granary* ' in the 
Yazoo delta and obtain a footing on the high ground east of 
the Yazoo, turning Vicksburg's right flank and besieging 
Vicksburg from the rear. The expeditionary force consisted 
of two river ironclads and eight light-draft rams and tinclads 
under Lieutenant Commander Watson Smith, and a division 
of troops under Brigadier General L. F. Ross. 11 

When the levee was blasted, the water, eight feet higher 
inside the river than in the old pass, gushed through in a 
muddy, roaring Niagara. "Logs, trees, and great masses of 
earth were torn away with the greatest of ease." 12 In a few 
hours the width of the cut in the levee grew to forty yards. 
The next morning it was eighty. Two weeks passed before the 
level outside approached that within the river, and the navy 
vessels, towing three barges of coal and followed by thirteen 
army transports, entered the pass. 

Everything depended upon surprise and speed in the dash 
across the Yazoo delta to the undefended upper reaches of 
the Yazoo River. The Confederates, however, with spies in 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 211 

Helena, had early got wind of the expedition and sent a 
working party of Negroes to fell timber across the route. 
Some trees could be bulldozed to one side by the ironclads. 
Others had to be towed out of the way by cable. The expedi- 
tion had to send back two hundred miles to Memphis for 
six-inch hempen cables that would not snap under the strain. 
As the pass was only one hundred feet wide, branches from 
trees on either side frequently met overhead to form tunnels. 
The single-deck ironclads, being squat and low, could often 
sail under these vaulted roofs of the forest, but not so the 
towering transports, whose fancy, wedding-cake tiers of decks 
required the clearing of an aisle overhead. "Pioneer** com- 
panies skilled in the ax were brought up to perform this 
tedious labor, but their progress was retarded by the fact that 
they had little dry land to stand on, the forest floor being 
from one to eight feet under water. 

Whenever one of the ironclads had to stop to coal ship, the 
entire line of vessels behind it came to a halt. When a trans- 
port developed engine trouble, smashed a wheel, or had its 
funnels knocked over by overhanging trees, the ironclads 
ahead of them also stopped. 

Commander Watson Smith, unacclimated to duty on the 
river and physically unfit for this rough campaign, angered 
younger military and naval officers by his refusal to plunge 
ahead, leaving the transports behind. The result was that the 
expedition took two weeks to make the two-hundred-mile 
distance across the Yazoo delta. During this interval, the 
Confederates had built a cotton-bale fort to stop the invaders 
just before they reached the Yazoo. 

Fort Peinberton was located near Greenwood, Mississippi, 
a few miles above the confluence of the Tallahatchie and the 
Yalobusha to form the Yazoo River. Block vessels were sunk 
at a right-angle bend in the Tallahatchie and a cotton-bale 
and earthwork fort, mounting an imported eight-and-one- 
half-inch Whitworth rifle and several lesser cannon, was built 
to stop the Federals. Ross's men on transports, strung out for 
over a mile behind the gunboats, were helpless to maneuver 


on land because of the depth of the surrounding backwaters. 
Everything now depended on the strength of the ironclads 
that spearheaded the line. 

A week of desultory battle now occurred. The ironclads 
Chillicothe and De Kalb, side by side and operating only 
their bow guns, moved cautiously downstream toward the 
Confederate batteries. Lest they become disabled in their 
machinery and be swept toward the enemy by the current, 
they were managed by tow lines run out to trees on the river 
banks, by which they could be withdrawn up the river beyond 
the fort's range. In the initial skirmish, the casemate of the 
Chillicothe was penetrated by a sixty-eight-pound, steel- 
tipped shot from the fort. Next day the enemy made a bull's 
eye through a gun port, killing and wounding an entire gun's 
crew. Shot landing on the casemate dented it, sprang it, 
snapped off the bolt heads, and splintered the soft pine back- 
ing of the armor. Watson Smith spent several days patching 
the gun-port shutters and desperately leashing cotton bales 
around the outside of the casemate to protect its armor! His 
health broke and he was surveyed by a board of doctors and 
sent north, presumably in a dying condition, and the com- 
mand was turned over to Lieutenant Commander James P. 

With his ammunition expended and the Chillicothe sadly 
battered, Foster was ready to retire from the contest when the 
menacing explosion of a Confederate torpedo off the "Chilly 
Coffee's" bow hastened his decision. On the return trip to 
the Mississippi, the expedition met a force of ten thousand 
men sent by Grant to rescue them. 

While the Yazoo Pass expedition was being undertaken, 
Porter, from his headquarters at Milliken's Bend, was at- 
tempting to break up the flow of traffic from the Red River to 
Vicksburg. Before dawn on February 2, he sent the Queen of 
the West, under Colonel Charles R. Ellet, dashing past 
Vicksburg with orders to ram in passing a merchantman at a 
Vicksburg pier. In the turbulent currents, the Queen missed 
her quarry at the wharf, but came through unscathed by the 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 213 

hundreds of Confederate shot hurled after her. 13 At unde- 
fended docks below Vicksburg, she destroyed quantities of 
cotton and food, and in the mouth o the Red River she 
burned three Southern steamers. A fortnight later Porter 
dispatched the first-rate river ironclad Indianola with sixty- 
days' provisions and two barges of coal. The Indianola's fire 
power, added to the Queen's speed in ramming, should be 
able to control the stretch of river between Vicksburg and 
Port Hudson. But this time the wheel of fortune creaked the 
wrong way. The Queen ran aground under enemy batteries. 
Ellet could not destroy her without burning to death his 
wounded, so she was captured. The Confederates now turned 
the captured Queen and their own fast steamer the Webb 
against the Indianola. Catching the Federal ironclad after 
dark, encumbered by barges, they stove her in by sinking her 
barges and ramming her first on one side and then the other. 
The Indianola's angry guns were avoided by her nimble 
antagonists. She sprang a leak, was run aground, and captured. 

At this point occurred the luckiest practical joke of the war. 
When word reached Porter's headquarters of the capture of 
the Queen and before the capture of the Indianola by the 
Confederates, one of Porter's officers suggested that a dummy 
monitor be sent down river to aid the Indianola. The idea 
appealed to the adniiraL Paddle boxes bearing the motto: 
"Deluded People Cave In'* were built on an old coal barge. 
A formidable Ericsson-style turret, logs painted black to 
simulate guns, and pork-barrel funnels with smudge pots 
completed the dummy. As the craft drifted past Vicksburg 
on the night of February 24, the enemy batteries saluted it 
with a lively fire, through which it floated complacently and 
without receiving a scratch. When the device ran aground on 
the lower side of the peninsula, Sherman's men gaily pushed 
it out again into midstream. 

This night a Confederate salvage crew at work on the 
newly captured Indianola were panicked by word from Vicks- 
burg of the passage of a "river monitor/* To prevent re- 
capture of their prize, they tried to burst its guns and touched 


off the vessel's magazines. When the joke became known a 
jeer arose throughout the South. "Laugh and hold your sides, 
lest you die of a surfeit of derision/' howled the Richmond 
Examiner. "Blown up because forsooth a fiat-boat or mud 
scow with a small house taken from the back yard of a planta- 
tion put on top of it, is floated down the river before the 
frightened eyes of the Partisan Rangers. A Turreted Monster! 
. . . The Partisan Rangers are notoriously more cunning than 
brave." " 

Mishaps to the Queen and the Indianola, together with 
disquieting earliest rumors that the Yazoo Pass expedition 
had been checked by a cotton-bale fort, sent Porter and Grant 
on March 14 on a quick reconnaissance up Steele's Bayou. 
Opening into the Yazoo ten miles above the junction of 
Yazoo and Mississippi, Steele's Bayou, together with Black 
Bayou, Deer Creek, Rolling Fork, and Sunflower River, it 
was hoped, might open a zigzag route across the southern 
end of the Yazoo delta which would bypass the Confederate 
obtructions at Haynes's Bluff. A Federal naval force in the 
upper Yazoo beyond these obstructions could destroy Con- 
federate river steamers, strike at Fort Pemberton from the 
rear, and cut off Vicksburg from the rich plantations of the 
area. More important, a military route across the lower delta 
would enable Grant to skirt around Vicksburg's right wing 
and besiege the city from the rear. After reconnoitering only 
30 of the prospective route's 120 miles, Grant hastened back 
to the Mississippi to dispatch a supporting force under Sher- 
man, while Porter forged ahead into the as yet unexplored 
reaches with five turtle-backed ironclads, four mortars, and 
four tugs. 

Steele's Bayou, deep and wide and lined with cypress and 
moss-bearded live oak, offered easy sailing. But Black Bayou 
was a secondary, lateral waterway connecting with Deer 
Creek, practicable for dugouts but tough for i5o-foot iron- 
clads. Sometimes Porter's turtles had to ram and uproot 
trees to clear a channel. There were sharp turns that they 
negotiated only by bumping trees and bouncing themselves 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 215 

around, with only inches to spare. There were branches to be 
cut away overhead. The jarring of ironclads' ramming trees 
shook loose snakes, lizards, and weasels that had taken refuge 
from the backwaters. Seamen had to sweep these animals 
from the decks. Black Bayou was fringed with canebrakes 
and the first land the sailors had seen since leaving the Yazoo. 
Raiding a plantation, a party from the ironclad Cincinnati 
brought in chickens, hams, eggs, butter, bed quilts, and the 
like. In twenty-four hours of constant labor, the expedition 
squeezed through the four miles of Black Bayou into Deer 

The stream here was wider and plantations were thick. 
Passing through this unspoiled region, the ironclad warships 
resembled roofs of cotton gins floating through the fields! 
Surprised owners set fire to their cotton and abandoned their 
houses. As cotton wharves were often placed opposite each 
other on either side of the narrow stream, the invaders fre- 
quently had to run the gantlet of these scorching braziers. 
Cheering Negroes crowded the river banks. "Bress de Lord, 
I's ready!" "De Lord and de Abolishuns dun set de darkeys 
free!" "Glory to de good Lord." Negroes followed the gun- 
boats for hours, begging biscuit and tobacco, "which they 
eagerly eat, even when they had to pick it out of the back- 
water." 15 Some of these excited blacks may have been from 
Shelby's, the Dear Creek plantation where Mrs. Stowe had 
found her prototypes for Topsy and Uncle Tom. 

For bulldozing trees or for knocking down bridges, Porter 
found the ironclads handily adapted. Not so, however, for 
dealing with willow withes in the upper stretches of Deer 
Creek. Here the lithe switches caught in the overhanging iron 
shields and had to be pulled up or cut off under water. In this 
tedious work the Negroes helped with a will, despite threats 
from their overseers. 

Willow chopping slowed Porter's advance, and on Friday, 
March 20, the Confederates began felling trees a few miles 
ahead of Porter at the junction of Deer Creek and Rolling 
Fork. Porter sent a tug with a howitzer to drive back these 


woodsmen and a party of two hundred marines to entrench 
themselves upon an Indian mound located at the junction. 
Sherman, meanwhile, was hung up forty or fifty miles to the 
rear at Black Bayou, through which his towering transports 
were unable to follow Porter's low ironclads. 

Confederate troops now arrived in considerable numbers 
and were reported felling trees behind Porter, By a contra- 
band the admiral sent a distress call to Sherman written on 
tissue paper and wadded up in a tobacco leaf. A coal barge 
now sank behind him and obstructed the channel. Before 
superior numbers his marines and pickets fell back to the 
boats. Enemy sharpshooters closed in, taking cover behind 
logs and stumps. Porter had to close his gun-port shutters 
they were masked anyway by the high banks of the creek 
and rely solely upon the skill of his marine sharpshooters 
stationed in the protected pilothouses atop the ironclads' 

Sherman made a forced march through canebrake and hip- 
deep swamp, his men lighting their way by candles and the 
short drummer boys carrying their drums on their heads. The 
rescue party relieved the beleaguered flotilla two days after 
the distress call was sent out. Sherman's men, muddy, rain- 
soaked, and covered with lint from cotton gins in which they 
had lately slept, were heartily cheered. The general himself 
appeared, riding bareback an animal picked up on a planta- 
tion. He found the admiral on the Cincinnati's deck protect- 
ing himself from sharpshooters by a section of smokestack. In 
a dark moment the now joyful admiral had written instruc- 
tions for destroying the ironclads. 

With Sherman's aid the ironclads withdrew from their 
tight spot. The sunken barge was torn up and its load of coal 
was spread out on the bottom of the creek so the vessels 
could descend. Some of the retreating ironclads managed to 
salvage cotton as consolation prizes. The Cincinnati acquired 
60 bales, averaging 450 pounds each. "The rebels follow and 
shoot at us," wrote a diarist on board the Cincinnati. "The 
negroes, too, are following closer to us than the whites, and 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 217 

they form a motley group indeed, of all ages and sexes, the 
lame, the halt, and the blind, as well as the stalwart and active. 
They are in all kinds of vehicles that can be conceived of, 
and on horses, mules, and afoot, in high gleegoing to 
freedom, sure/ they say. Some shout to the animals they are 
driving, 'Go 'long, dar, old fool hoss, don't know nothing; 
your's gwine to freedom, too/ The cotton gins and outhouses 
on Fore's plantation (4 miles above Black Bayou) are still 
burning. The gunboats are now turned around, bows down- 
stream, and their speed is increased. At half-past 7 P.M. we 
reached Hill's plantation, and stayed over night. Wednesday, 
March 25 The Union troops are strewed all along the bank, 
cooking, jumping, wrestling, and upon mules' back (in puris 
naturabilibus)l forcing the animals to swim the creek, and 
endeavoring to climb a steep bank upon the opposite side; 
some twenty of them have already tried this feat and failed, 
still others try. Received orders to take on each of the gun- 
boats 250 soldiers for transportation to the Mississippi. The 
soldiers are now slaughtering beef and mutton and cooking 
for their rations on the trip " 16 

On his return through Steele's Bayou, Porter learned that, 
during his absence from the neighborhood of Vicksburg, 
Farragut had passed the batteries at Port Hudson and com- 
municated with Grant across the peninsula opposite Vicks- 

The campaign against Port Hudson in the lower river had 
suffered from the Union commanders* having too much to do 
and too little to do it with. In addition to the New Orleans 
operations, Farragut managed the blockade of the Western 
Gulf from Florida to the Bio Grande. Banks had to ad- 
minister martial law in New Orleans, threaten Texas, and 
politically reconstruct Louisiana. Since many of his green 
troops had never handled a musket before they arrived in 
New Orleans, it was March before Banks notified Farragut 
that he was ready to commence operations against Port 

Farragut, ever impetuous, started upstream at once. His 


aims were to pass Port Hudson with as many ships as possible, 
to communicate with Grant and Porter at Vicksburg, to pre- 
vent the erection of new Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf, 
and to cut off Confederate supplies from the Red River, For 
greater maneuverability in the currents of Port Hudson's 
hairpin turn, Farragut leashed small gunboats to the port 
sides of three of his large steamers. During the attempted 
passage, the river ironclad Essex, too feeble in her engine 
power to ascend the river, was assigned a supporting position 
with the mortar boats below the batteries, while Banks's 
army was to assault Port Hudson from the rear. "The captains 
will bear in mind," ordered Farragut, "that the object is to 
run the batteries at the least possible damage to our ships. . . . 
I expect all to go by who are able, and I think the best pro- 
tection against the enemy's fire is a well directed fire from our 
own guns '* 17 

Farragut moved upstream at 10:00 P.M. on the fourteenth. 
The flagship Hartford was paired with the Albatross,, the 
Richmond with the Genessee, the Monongahela with the 
KineO; and last came the side-wheeler Mississippi without a 
consort. As the invaders approached, the Confederates set 
fire to piles of pitch pine along the river banks and arched the 
river with rockets to illuminate the Lincolnite targets. In 
this battle Farragut suffered greater losses than in the battle 
below New Orleans. The Richmond's steam line was cut and 
she, with her consort, failed to get through. The Monongahela 
grounded for thirty minutes. Her bridge was shot away and 
she was otherwise badly damaged before her consort the 
Kineo worked her free. The Mississippi, conned by her youth- 
ful executive officer George Dewey, grounded hard at the 
turn and had to be destroyed. Only the Hartford and her 
"little chicken" the Albatross made it past the batteries. 

During the month that remained before Porter and Grant 
shifted their forces below Vicksburg, Farragut patrolled the 
river between Port Hudson and Vicksburg, and to the enemy 
denied access to his supplies from the Red River. This was 
perilous work, as the deep-sea Hartford might at any time 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 219 



burg and Port Hudson, which guarded the essential 
Confederate supply route through the Red River. 

have been caught like the ill-fated Indianola. Of the two 
rams sent down from above as screening escorts, the Lancaster 
was sunk by enemy batteries during the passage of Vicksburg 
and the Switzerland arrived with a boiler punctured. Coal 
and naval stores, however, were drifted downstream to Far- 
ragut without mishap. 


In shifting his troops to a point below Vicksburg, Grant at 
one time sought to utilize the experiences gained in the Yazoo 
delta. Protracted rains and high water long delayed Grant's 
march down the Louisiana shore. Given a sufficient number 
of tugs and barges such as Sherman had used, he might be 
able to transport his men through the drowned forest from 
Milliken's Bend to New Carthage, twenty-five miles below. 
Early in April Grant did commence dredging and axing out 
sections of a New Carthage canal, but his engineers soon 
decided that raising the levee road to New Carthage was 
easier and more certain than building a waterway. This was 
done. At length McClernand's corps was set in motion down 
the Louisiana levee, and Porter's cooperating ironclads- 
essential to protect the troop crossing to the eastern side of 
the riverran the gantlet past Vicksburg on the night of 
April 16. 

At 10:00 P.M. the vessels moved silently along the peninsula 
headed toward Vicksburg and the turn. The nine naval 
craft were arranged in the following order: 1S 

Benton, ironclad, flagship, Lieutenant Commander James A. 


Ivy, tug, lashed to Ben ton 
Lafayette, ironclad, Captain Henry Walke 
General Price, captured and converted wooden side-wheeler, 

lashed to Lafayette 

Louisville, ironclad, Lieutenant Commander Elias K. Owen 
Mound, City, ironclad, Lieutenant Byron Wilson 
Pittsburg, ironclad, Lieutenant W. R. Hoel 
Carondelet } ironclad, Lieutenant John M. Murphy 
Tuscumbia, ironclad, Lieutenant Commander James W. Shirk 

Three transports, the Forest Queen, the Silver Wave, and the 
Henry Clay, were placed in front of the Tuscumbia at the 
rear, and all ironclads save the Benton had coal barges in 
tow and were additionally shielded by piles of logs and wet 

Leading the column and skirting the dark woods of the 
peninsula opposite the town, the Benton was not detected 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 

until she reached the turn. Then, on the tip of the peninsula, 
a house was fired by Confederate pickets and on a hill beyond 
the city was lighted a calcium flare which directed shafts of 
blinding light on the river. The flagship was roughly whirled 
around by the current and came within forty yards of the 
wharves, so close that her captain could hear "the rattling 
of falling walls after our fire." 19 One after another the iron- 
clads took their buffeting by batteries aloft and turbulent 
currents underneath. All ships came through with minor 
damage, save the transport Henry Clay which was destroyed 
by fire. All told only a dozen men were wounded. There was 
no one killed. 

"It was a jolly scene throughout," Porter rejoiced next day 
in a letter to Fox, "and I reckon that the city of Vicksburg 
never got a better hammering. We all drifted by slowly, and 
opened on them with shell, shrapnel, and canister, as hard as 
we could fire. I was a little worried when I saw the Henry 
Clay on fire, but I soon saw that she was [an Army transport 
and] none of ours. . . . The scene along the river was beauti- 
fulhundreds of little bunches of cotton all afire, from the 
Henry Clay, were floating down on the water, helping to 
light up what was already too light for us. These bunches of 
cotton followed us down the river, and when we anchored 
below Warrenton, it looked as if a thousand steamers were 
coming down." 20 

The protracted and unsuccessful maneuvering of Grant 
and Porter in the drowned forests around Vicksburg puzzled 
and annoyed President Lincoln. Lincoln was all for trans- 
ferring from Charleston to New Orleans the army under 
Hunter and Du Pont's monitors to help open the riverthat 
being the greatest present objective of the war; and, as Fox 
wrote Du Pont, the President was with difficulty restrained 
from that course. 21 Halleck relayed Lincoln's impatient 
queries and suggestions. Welles sent Porter a direct order to 
pass below Vicksburg and relieve Farragut a message Porter 
did not receive until after he had already run the gantlet. To 
get a clearer picture of the complicated campaign, Stanton 


commissioned the journalist, Charles A. Dana, as a major in 
the volunteers and attached him to Grant's headquarters to 
make frequent and full reports of the situation. 

Grant's troops having arrived at New Carthage, Porter on 
April 29 bombarded the Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf, 
preparatory to ferrying the troops across the river. It was a 
bitter fight lasting five and one half hours. The ironclads 
Benton> Tuscumbia, and Pittsburgh very much cut up, lost 
twenty-four killed and fifty-six wounded. 22 It was the navy's 
last solo performance in the Vicksburg campaign. Grant 
moved his troops a few miles further down the western bank 
and the Navy ferried them across at the undefended village 
of Bruinsburg. 

In the final stages of the campaign Grant struck inland at 
Black River, Champion's Hill, and Jackson, maneuvering 
to prevent Joseph E. Johnston from joining forces with 
Pemberton in Vicksburg. On May 18 Sherman broke through 
to the river from the rear of the Chickasaw Hills positions 
that he had vainly assaulted last December, and Porter 
rushed up the Yazoo River to supply him with food and am- 
munition. Henceforth, the campaign became a regular siege, 
with trench warfare, sapping, and mining on the eastern 
military front. Throughout the forty days of the siege, the 
Navy rained thirteen-inch mortar shells upon the doomed 
city. Because the guns of the ironclads could not deal with 
Vicksburg's high batteries, Porter took fifteen eight- and 
nine-inch naval cannon around to his friend Sherman's sector 
of the front, where, manned by seamen, they directed their 
powerful blows against important positions of the enemy. 23 

General Banks invested Port Hudson on May 21 with 
twelve thousand men. On the twenty-seventh he launched an 
ineffective assault in which he lost one thousand killed and 
wounded, after which he remained quiescent until after the 
fall of Vicksburg. 

By the end of June, the citizens of Vicksburg were eating 
mule meat under the name of "Confederate beef." On July 

Combined Attacks on Vicksburg and Port Hudson 223 

3 General Pemberton requested an armistice, and surrender 
was made on the Fourth. 

Porter's telegraphed announcement reached Washington 
ahead of Grant's and was carried at once by Mr. Welles to 
the White House, where, as Welles's diary records the scene, 
Mr. Lincoln was "detailing certain points relative to Grant's 
movements on the map to Chase and two or three others, 
when I gave the tidings. Putting down the map, he rose at 
once, said we could drop these topics, and 'I myself will tele- 
graph this news to General Meade [at Gettysburg].' He 
seized his hat, but suddenly stopped, his countenance beam- 
ing with joy; he caught my hand, and, throwing his arm 
around me, exclaimed: 'What can we do for the Secretary of 
the Navy for this glorious intelligence? He is always giving 
us good news. I can not, in words, tell you my joy over this 
result. It is great, Mr. Welles, it is great!* " 24 

Four days after Vicksburg, Port Hudson capitulated to 
General Banks. Farragut, as ordered by the Navy Department, 
now turned over to Admiral Porter the control of the entire 
river above New Orleans and went home for a well-earned 
furlough. The great campaign to open the Mississippi was 
completed. The Father of Waters flowed, in Lincoln's jubi- 
lant phrase, "unvexed to the sea." 


DuPont and Dahlgren 
at Charleston 


commanders in the West, he was under pressure to make 
similar changes on the eastern blockade coast. During the 
year since the victory at Port Royal, Du Pont had preserved 
his reputation as the gracious, happy-ship commander of the 
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. But now the war bugles 
sounded in the ears o the great ordnance inventor, John A. 
Dahlgren, and Dahlgren lusted to replace Du Pont in the 
forthcoming operation of ironclads against Charleston. 

Du Pont had maintained a reasonably thorough blockade 
with the forces assigned to him, especially in view of the fact 
that the department had from time to time withdrawn certain 
of his best units to reinforce Farragut at New Orleans and for 
other temporary missions. Du Pont, however, was identified 
with the old wooden Navy, and Dahlgren currently engaged 
in testing his huge fifteen-inch gunwas popularly rated, 
along with Ericsson, as representative of the new ironclad 

In the obscure behind-the-scenes duel for command of the 
monitors against Charleston, Dahlgren enjoyed an exceptional 
position as unofficial naval aide to the President. From the 
outbreak of hostilities, the restless Lincoln was forever run- 
ning to the Washington Navy Yard to see what Commander 
Dahlgren thought of the latest military or naval develop- 


Du Pont and Dahlgren at Charleston 225 

ment. 1 Sometimes he would invite the slight, pale, scrupu- 
lously correct Dahlgren to accompany him on a brief outing 
on the Potomac. At times he would come simply to watch the 
test firing of a gun. Dahlgren's high forehead and delicately 
chiseled Teutonic features were set off by a thin shingle of 
sandy hair, crisply trimmed mustache, and electric sideburns. 
He was a thinker, and yet was human, too, his eyes flashing, 
nostrils dilating, as he warmed to a subject. He was the same 
age as Lincoln, as serious and austere as the President was 
jocular. The two were fit complements for each other. 
Lincoln, enjoying his company, invited him often to the 
White House, and found him a firm staff to lean upon on 
such occasions as the Merrimack scare when the Secretaries 
of War and Navy were at loggerheads. 

Dahlgren's request to command the monitors was denied by 
Welles on the score that Dahlgren could not be spared from 
the gun factory. 2 In effect, this decision closed to the inventor 
the door to advancement in the navy line, since it was Welles's 
fixed policy to promote only on the basis of success in battle. 
Lincoln several times intimated to Welles that a letter from 
the department recommending Dahlgren would be favorably 
acted upon. But staunch Uncle Gideon was aware of Dahl- 
gren's reputation in the service as a scholar who had spent 
twelve years before the war at his desk on shore, and he didn't 
think Dahlgren would be acceptable to the fleet as a battle 
leader. Certainly not to replace Du Pont. Accordingly, Welles 
called Du Pont to Washington, sounded him thoroughly on 
the subject of ironclads, and satisfied himself that Du Pont 
possessed the right brand of enthusiasm and fighting spirit. 
Du Pont was told to expect the ironclads as soon as they 
could be completed. 

Lincoln now personally intervened to put Dahlgren's pro- 
motion through Congress so that Welles's own policy would 
not be vitiated, and Welles gave the new Rear Admiral 
Dahlgren appropriate duty as Chief of the Bureau of Ord- 
nance, in addition to his work at the gun factory. The arrange- 
ment satisfied Dahlgren's desire for rank, but not his gnawing 


hunger for the test of battle. With that unappeased, he con- 
tinued to fret at his specialized desk in Washington. 

Du Pont, meanwhile, given to understand that he was ex- 
pected to sail the ironclads past Fort Sumter and up to the 
wharves o Charlestonafter the pattern set by Farragut at 
New Orleans continued the usual routine of the blockade 
and waited for the ironclads to be completed and sent to him. 

The Monitor and the Galena at this time were up the James 
River protecting McClellan's flank. They should be dis- 
patched to Charleston, Fox promised Du Pont, as soon as 
Richmond fell But Richmond stood, and, when McClellan 
withdrew from the peninsula, the thin-skinned Galena had 
been proved worthless. By the end of 1862 only the Monitor 
had been got off to Du Pont, and that vessel while on its 
way south on December 31, 1862, sank in a storm off Cape 
Hatteras. Later monitors in process of construction were to 
prove but slightly better in sailing qualities. Several after 
their maiden voyages from New York to Hampton Roads had 
to put into Washington's wooden-ship navy yard for repairs, 
whither both materials and workmen skilled in iron had to 
be rushed to them from Ericsson's establishment in New 
York. Sometimes such repair work was retarded by swarms of 
Washington officials eager to get a look at Ericsson's famous 
monitors. Captain Drayton, while his ironclad the Passaic 
was under repair, wrote a member of his family, "We are 
overrun with senators and members [of Congress] who won't 
be kept out, no regulations being considered to apply to 
those high functionaries, and on Saturday we had the Presi- 
dent [,] Mr. Chase and some other important people, the 
former [Lincoln] went everywhere [;] crawled into places 
that Gerald or Henry would scarce have ventured in, and 
gave us a funny story or two in illustration." 3 

Long before the first ironclads reached Charleston, the 
newspapers were blaming Du Pont for the delay. Charleston 
was a difficult port to blockade. The sinking of the stone fleet 
in its main channels the first year of the war had only diverted 
the powerful currents of the harbor through other channels. 

Du Pont and Dahlgren at Charleston 

The city's defenders, foreseeing eventual attacks, had run 
lines of pilings, rope and chain obstructions, and torpedoes 
across the harbor's inner channels, and had greatly reinforced 
all the inner forts and sprinkled their outlying islands with 
new log-and-sand batteries to protect blockade-runners. At 
the beginning of the third year of war, with profits more 
fabulous than ever, the science of blockade-running was more 
highly developed. Long, gray craft with rakish masts and 
disappearing funnels had been built in Europe to elude and 
outrun the relatively unwieldy men-of-war outside Charles- 
ton's entrances. "I am kept pretty constantly upon blockade 
service, and hard and discouraging duty it is, off Charleston/' 
wrote smart blockade captain John Downes. "I do not believe 
it possible to blockade the place effectually, and at times I am 
inclined to believe that with good pilots and judicious choice 
of time and opportunity, the blockade is but a trifling im- 
pediment in the way of steamers entering the harbor, painted 
lead color as they are; of a dark night, or a rainy one, they 
will pass, or can pass, within a few hundred yards without 
being detected, and, guided by signal inside the harbor, they 
almost invariably manage to avoid the blockading vessels. I 
would be glad if I could only impress upon you some faint 
notion of how disgusting it is to us, after going through the 
anxieties of riding out a black, rainy, windy night in 3 or 31^ 
fathoms water, with our senses all on the alert for sound of 
paddles or sight of miscreant violator of our blockade and 
destroyer of our peace, when morning comes to behold him 
lying there placidly inside of Fort Sumter, as if his getting 
there was the most natural thing in the world and the 
easiest." * 

When the ironclads Passaic and Montauk reached the 
blockade base at Port Royal the middle of January of 1863, 
certain Confederate developments had already made it neces- 
sary for Dn Pont to divert these first ironclads from the 
Charleston attack to other essential and pressing chores. The 
Confederate ironclad Fingal, with a more formidable engine 
than the Merrimack^ threatened to drive off the wooden 


blockade ships from Warsaw and Ossabaw Sounds, or to re- 
lease from her lair in the Ogeechee River the nimble block- 
ade-runner Nashville, now converted into a commerce raider. 
Within Charleston two iron-plated rams were nearing com- 
pletion: the Chicora and the Palmetto State. According to 
intelligent contrabands who escaped from Charleston to the 
blockaders, these vessels, 150 to 160 feet in length and 
equipped with old engines taken out of the steamers Lady 
Davis and Aid, could make four knots in smooth water. Four 
other ironclads on the stocks were being hurried along by 
the Confederates as rapidly as possible. 

To his friend Commodore Theodoras Bailey, a veteran of 
New Orleans, Du Pont deplored the "morbid appetite in the 
land to have Charleston . . . the cradle of this wicked rebel- 
lion/' He believed that had the government after Port Royal 
sent into this sea-island country one tithe of the Army o the 
Potomac, Savannah and Charleston might easily have toppled. 
"The difficulties have increased a thousandfold since then, 
English people who have been into Charleston call it a 
Sebastopol, and smile at the idea of its being taken. The De- 
partment thinks it can be done with a few monitors and talks 
of four. ..." As for the department's idea of simply running 
past the forts a la New Orleans, if Du Pont had ever had faith 
in that plan, he cooled toward it when he returned to the 
realities of Port Royal. "You are aware there is 'no running 
by;' the harbor is a bog, or cul de sac, to say nothing of ob- 
structions, which ironclads are much less serviceable in 
removing, as you know, than wooden vessels with their boats 
and appliances. I hope and believe we can do the job as well 
as most people. I shall certainly try/' 5 

The most powerful of the Union ironclads in offensive 
strength was the armor-belted ship New Ironsides. Du Pont 
removed her anachronistic masts and spars, with which a 
conservative Bureau of Construction had equipped her, and 
sawed off her smokestack, which by an incredible blunder 
had been located immediately in front of the armored pilot- 
house! 6 The line of sight was now clear but the amount of 

Du Pont and Dahlgren at Charleston 

gas and cinders thrown out from the stack and driven aft 
through the eyeholes in the pilothouse was enough to asphyxi- 
ate captain, pilot, and helmsman. The ship's heavy plate 
rendered her largely invulnerable, but her rudders were so 
flimsily bolted to her hull structure that her usefulness in 
battle was a question. Du Pont planned eventually to place 
her off Charleston to use her powerful Dahlgren guns against 
the Confederate ironclad rams. But the rams came out before 
the New Ironsides was ready. 

On January 29, 1863, Du Font's blockaders off Charleston 
crowded ashore and captured a blockade-runner carrying 
what was possibly the war's most important single cargo of 
contraband. Along with guns, arms, and ammunition, the 
crack British iron propeller, Princess Royalj, was attempting 
to transport from Bermuda to Charleston two powerful steam 
engines for ironclads, together with expert machinists "to 
instruct the rebels in the management of new machinery and 
in the manufacture of steel-pointed projectiles." 7 

On the chance that they might recover the fabulous prize, 
which, the morning after her seizure, was riding outside the 
harbor with her captors, the Confederates gambled their two 
ironclads. At 4:00 A.M. on the thirty-first, the Palmetto State 
and the Chicora, taking advantage of a thick haze, sneaked 
out the Main Ship Channel and appeared suddenly under the 
starboard quarter of the blockader U.S.S. Mercedita. "She 
has black smoke. Watch, man the guns, spring the rattle, call 
all hands to quarters!" Captain H. S. Stellwagen, pulling on 
his pea jacket as he ran to the ladder, saw through the smoke 
a low boat which he took to be a tug belonging to the 
squadron. "Train your guns right on him and be ready to fire 
as soon as I order/* Then he hailed: "Steamer ahoy! Stand 
clear of us and heave to! What steamer is that? You will be 
into us!" The stranger hallooed faintly from within his 
armored pilothouse and came on under the Mercedita's 

counter. "This is the Confederate States ram " The 

name was choked off in the ram's impact, and her firing at the 
same moment exploded boilers and tore a hole five feet 


square in the port side of the Federal ship. Too close under 
to be menaced by the Mercedita's gun, the ram demanded: 
"Surrender, or I'll sink you! Do you surrender?" 8 Stellwagen, 
without motive power and able to bring to bear nothing but 
muskets against his antagonist's shotproof hide, surrendered. 
Quickly the Palmetto State's commander accepted from 
Executive Officer Abbot the parole of officers and crew and 
dashed away in company with C.S.S. Chicora to assault the 
next blockade ship, the U.S.S. Keystone State. It was after 
5:00 A.M., and in daylight their second prey had time to slip 
her cable and commence firing to fend off these Merrimack- 
like twins. The Keystone State escaped after an hour's running 
fight, but received a crippling shot through her boilers just as 
her attackers gave up the chase. 

The episode was humiliating enough for Mr. Lincoln's 
blockaders. The Mercedita surrendered. The Keystone State 
ran away. But to publish, as did General Beauregard and 
President Davis, that the blockade at Charleston was tech- 
nically broken and that foreigners were now free to send 
vessels in and out of Charleston until a new Federal blockade 
should be cumbersomely instituted, was gasconade. At least 
eight Yankee blockaders were stationed off other near-by 
entrances to Charleston, and four of them the Augusta, the 
Quaker City, the Memphis, and the Housatonic arrived off 
the Main Ship Channel in time to trade blows with the at- 
tackers as they retired to the cover of shore batteries. 

Following this incident, Du Pont insisted that the Navy 
Department send not just four monitors, but all they had. 
Welles and Lincoln had planned to send several monitors 
to Mobile. Welles deplored Du Font's tendency to postpone 
the main attack. His perpetually calling for more ironclads 
reminded the Secretary of McClellan's calling for more 
troops. Lincoln jested about the monkey that kept asking for 
a longer and longer tail. 

Du Font's testing of the new ironclad Montauk resulted in 
the destruction near Fort McAllister of the Rebel raider 
Nashville. The MontauKs commanderJohn L. Worden of 

Du Pont and Dahlgren at Charleston 

Monitor-Merrimack fame had the good fortune to catch the 
Nashville aground just above the fort. Welles rejoiced over 
Worden's new victory, and in the press releases minimized 
the fact that, in returning downstream after blowing up the 
Confederate cruiser, the Montauk had herself been damaged 
"by a torpedo. 


CHARLESTON HARBOR, a difficult area to blockade and 
the scene of attacks by ironclads under Du Pont and 

Du Pont, neither so certain or so enthusiastic as Fox about 
the ability of ironclads to deliver and absorb punishment, 
postponed the major attack for so long a time that Lincoln 
in April attempted to prod him into action. 

Through Secretary Welles, Lincoln, on April 2, 1863, 
directed Du Pont after his present attack on Charleston to 
send all the ironclads that were in a fit condition directly to 
New Orleans, "reserving to yourself only two/' 9 In the same 
mail Fox softened the blow by explaining that "the President 
was with difficulty restrained from sending off Hunter and 
all the iron-clads directly to New Orleans, the opening of the 
Mississippi River being considered the principal object to 
be attained/' 10 To insure prompt action Lincoln dispatched 


these messages by dapper young John Hay, one of his personal 

Before Lincoln's special messenger arrived, Du Pont de- 
livered his long-delayed attack upon Charleston. His Coast 
Survey party, escorted by a pair of monitors, marked the bar 
and set buoys along the Main Ship Channel which ran to the 
northwest, parallel to Morris Island and heading directly 
toward Fort Sumter in the middle of the harbor. To clear a 
path through harbor obstructions, Du Font's leading monitor, 
the Weehawkerij was provided with a mine sweeper invented 
by Ericsson. This raftlike novelty, V-shaped to fit over the 
bow of a monitor, was equipped across the front with a series 
of dangling grapnels and a seven-hundred-pound torpedo. 
After their preliminary tests in the tidal currents below Fort 
McAllister, the monitor captains decided that this torpedo 
was a greater hazard to themselves than to the enemy and 
they omitted it. 

Du Pont crossed the bar on the sixth with the eccentric 
flagship New Ironsides, seven monitors, and one twin-case- 
mated experimental craft, the Keokuk. He planned to sail 
around Fort Sumter, to engage its weaker northwest face, and, 
if possible, to get through the harbor obstructions to move 
on into Charleston. General David Hunter, whose troops had 
occupied Folly Island to gain command of two secondary ap- 
proaches to Charleston, was poised to invade the southern 
end of Morris Island. But this first trial of the monitors was 
to be the navy's show. 

Du Pont's forces, anchored inside the roadstead in the order 
of sailing, with the flagship in the center, were as follows: xl 

Weehawkerij single-turret monitor, 2 guns, Captain John Rodgers 
PassaiC; single-turret monitor, 2 guns, Captain Percival Drayton 
Montauk, single-turret monitor, 2 guns, Commander John L. 

Patapscoy single-turret monitor, 2 guns, Commander Daniel 

New Ironsides, flagship, armor-belted, 16 guns, Commodore 

Thomas Turner 

Du Pont and Dahlgren at Charleston 233 

Catskilly single-turret monitor, 2, guns, Commander George W. 

Nantucket, single-turret monitor, % guns, Commander Donald M. 


Nahant, single-turret monitor, % guns, Commander John Downes 
Keokuk, twin casemates, 2 guns, Lieutenant Commander A. C. 


Each monitor carried an eleven-inch and a fifteen-inch Dahl- 
gren gun. Against Du Font's total of thirty-two guns, the 
Confederates had two major forts, Sumter and Moultrie, and 
a dozen satellite forts and batteries, collectively able to con- 
centrate upon ships entering the harbor a heavier volume of 
fire than could be hurled upon any other spot in the world. 

April 7, 1863. The early fog burned off to leave a day so 
clear that one could see beyond Fort Sumter the many steeples 
of Charleston. It was a balmy day, "flashing with the wings of 
countless butterflies." 12 At noon on the ebb tide, the most 
suitable stage of water for steering clumsy ironclads in a 
narrow channel, Du Pont signaled to get under way. As 
chains were being reeled in, the Weehawken at the head of 
the line fouled her anchor in the grapnels of her mine sweeper. 
The leading ship held up the line from 12:50 to 1:15 P.M. 
Then, one after another, the ponderous vessels got under 
way. It took thirty minutes for the four monitors ahead of 
the flagship to get started and another half hour for the four 
that followed. Inside the armor-belted flagship, with port 
shutters and overhead grating closed, it was almost pitch dark. 
Du Pont, in the crowded pilothouse, could be thankful that 
General Hunter had trained several of his sailors in the 
army's mode of signaling by semaphore, for otherwise the 
tightly closed ironclads were without means of communica- 
tion. Nor, for want of correctional devices, was it possible 
for these primitive ironclads to carry compasses. 

As the monitors came within range of Fort Sumter, it is 
doubtful whether any of Du Font's sailors could see the 
people crowded upon the steeples and roofs of Charleston 
and along the neighboring shores. Some three dozen men all 


told, who were stationed within the pilothouses, could see 
the Confederate and state flags on opposite corners of Fort 
Sumter. The ironclads passed along the palmetto-skirted 
length of Morris Island without evoking the fire of batteries. 

Not to ground the flagship in the narrow channel, Com- 
modore Turner from time to time had a port shutter triced 
up and a lead dropped from the sill of the port. Too fre- 
quently for comfort, his heavy ship was found to be within a 
foot of scraping the bottom. Since the New Ironsides' armor 
belt protected only her midship section, Turner had sought 
to shield her wooden stem and stern by barricading vulner- 
able points with some six thousand sandbags. On her spar 
deck sandbags were laid over a spread of odoriferous green 
cow hides. All told the New Ironsides was as clumsy, un- 
wieldy, and smelly as a barge, and her fragile steering 
mechanism was a constant worry to her skipper. 13 

At 2:10 the Weehawken reached the first obstructions. 
These were several rows of beer casks strung together by lines 
and extending across the harbor between Forts Sumter and 
Moultrie. Rows of pilings barred a passage between James 
Island and the Middle Ground. The Weehawken's grapnels 
set off a Confederate torpedo which slightly lifted the iron- 
clad's bow, but did no real damage. The Weehawken sig- 
naled: "Obstructions in my vicinity," and the line slowed 
down. 14 

At 3:05 Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter opened fire. 

The Federal ironclads were subjected to a terrific pound- 
ing by the forts, to which they could only reply in slow motion. 
As in Ericsson's first Monitor., gunners loaded and fired while 
their turrets revolved. Confusion developed as the monitors 
were crowded into the shell-splashed center of the cauldron. 
The comparatively tall New Ironsides., her black walls rising 
high above the squat monitors, responded so erratically to 
her helm that her pilot was compelled twice to throw out an 
anchor to escape collisions. The two monitors immediately 
behind her in line could not avoid bumping her, the Nan- 
tucket on one side, the Catskill on the other. At 3:55 Du Pont 

Du Pont and Dahlgren at Charleston 235 

made the general signal: "Disregard motions of Commander- 
in-chief," and kept his unmanageable flagship out of effective 
range so as not to hazard riding down the monitors. 

As the battle progressed, each monitor came under intense 
fire for thirty or forty minutes. Du Pont could see through 
his glass the dark shot holes perforating the gaily painted 
smokestacks. Several turrets ceased to turn and had to be re- 
paired under fire. The Keokuk, the last ironclad to come 
within the crossfire of the forts, fired only five shots at Sumter 
before her thin iron plates were riddled, and she hobbled out 
of action. At 5:00 P.M., on the advice of his pilots, Du Pont 
called off the action, intending to renew it on the morrow. 

That night after anchoring, the captains of the ironclads 
came on board the flagship to report their experiences. They 
were men who had been carefully picked for this novel 
experiment and in them Du Pont had implicit faith. John 
Rodgers of the Weehawken jested grimly of the caprices of 
the mine sweeper. Sometimes, when the ironclad rose with 
the sea, the raft would fall. Rodgers never felt certain that it 
would not be washed upon his deck or caught beneath his 
vessel's overhang. The Weehawken, fortunately, had suffered 
no damage from the explosion of the Confederate torpedo. 
She had fired twenty-six shells at the forts and in turn had been 
struck by them fifty-three times. In spots her side armor was 
fragmented and the wood exposed. Of the cast-iron bolts 
which held her turret plates together, thirty-six had been 
snapped off and the turret somewhat weakened. Percival 
Drayton's Passaic had fired thirteen shells and received 
thirty-five hits. A shot landing at his turret's base had jammed 
together the rails of a gun carriage and put one of his two guns 
out of action. Vision through the eyeslits in the pilothouse 
was so restricted and battle smoke was so dense that Drayton 
thought it a great piece of luck that no one had grounded or 
been sunk by collision. 

And so on down the list too little striking power of their 
own, too high a vulnerability to overwhelming fire from the 
forts. Worden's Montauk, firing twenty-seven shots, received 


fourteen hits, no great damage. But after testing the enemy's 
fire and observing the obstructions, Worden believed that 
Charleston could not be taken by the ironclads now present, 
and that a continuance of the attack would have spelled disas- 
ter. The Patapsco got off ten shells, received forty-seven hits, 
and had one gun disabled. The Catskill fired twenty-two 
shells, was struck twenty times, and suffered no injury. The 
Nantucket hurled fifteen shells, and had one gun put out of 
action. Commander Donald Fairfax was "disappointed be- 
yond measure at this experiment of monitors overwhelming 
strong forts." 15 John Downes of the Nahant threw fifteen 
shells in exchange for a pounding which jammed his turret 
and disarranged his steering gear. Broken boltheads hurtled 
like dumdum bullets inside the Nahant's pilothouse. The 
cast-iron pellets knocked out pilot and quartermaster and 
fatally fractured the skull of helmsman Edward Cobb who 
was the sole fatality of the day on board the ironclads. The 
Keokuk got off three shells before being completely riddled 

That the ironclads were mechanically unequal to the tough 
work cut out for them seemed so clear that Du Pont decided 
not to renew the attack. All night the Keokuk' s people strug- 
gled to keep their vessel afloat, but the large and ragged 
apertures along her water line could not be plugged with any 
materials available. At 8:20 A.M. she sank off the lower end of 
Morris Island in seventeen feet of water. Du Pont sent the 
sunken vessel's skipper, Lieutenant Commander A. C. Rhind, 
to Washington to report the failure of the attack and Du 
Font's decision not to renew it. On the way, Du Font's mes- 
senger passed Lincoln's, John Hay, who on the ninth arrived 
off Charleston and delivered his dispatches to Admiral Du 

By letter from his secretary, Lincoln learned the opinion of 
the ironclad skippers that in their attack on Fort Sumter they 
had attempted the impossible. 16 While they had been in 
action only forty minutes, most of the vessels had suffered 
broken boltheads and slightly indented armor plate, but 

Du Pont and Dahlgren at Charleston 

these trifling damages had frequently sufficed to put a monitor 
out of action. A shot landing near the base of a turret could 
spring the mechanism of a gun carriage and blank out a gun. 
A bolthead rolling under the deck could scotch a turret. Fleet 
Captain George Rodgers gave Hay his opinion that the 
monitor fleet could not have survived a full hour of fighting. 
Du Pont was convinced that to run past the fort was to risk 
entanglement in the harbor obstructions and possible capture 
by the enemy, and thus even loss of local control on the block- 
ade coast. Du Pont had positively declined to accept the latter 

Lincoln visited the army's front in Virginia in order to 
glean the earliest news from Richmond newspapers. Com- 
mander Rhind, with Du Font's brief report and Rhind's own 
eye-witness narrative of the sinking of the Keokuk, did not 
reach Washington until five days after the battle. Welles 
took the naval officer at once to the White House. Both 
Welles and Lincoln had hoped, as discouraging newspaper 
reports came in, that the attack on the seventh had been an 
exploratory demonstration, feeling out the situation and 
preliminary to a main assault to come later. They were dis- 
mayed to learn that Du Pont considered it as final and a 
defeat. Rhind's story fell on unsympathetic ears. The Keokuk 
was not a monitor, and, thought Welles, its loss had "stam- 
peded, disgusted, and wholly upset** its skipper. Why Du 
Pont had sent Rhind home "to howl," Welles bitterly sur- 
mised, was "to strengthen faith in himself and impair faith 
in the monitors." 17 

Above all things the immense psychological value of moni- 
tors must not be dissipated. Within the month the frightened 
Confederates below Vicksburg had destroyed a captured iron- 
clad when Porter's dummy monitor had come in sight. More- 
over, if Du Pont abandoned the attack now, the jubilant 
Confederates might shift their troops elsewhere against 
Grant at Vicksburg, or the Army of the Potomac in Virginia. 
Du Pont must be made to hold his ground. 

On April 13 Lincoln telegraphed Du Pont: "Hold your 


position inside the bar near Charleston, or i you shall have 
left it, return to it, and hold it till further orders. Do not 
allow the enemy to erect new batteries or defenses on Morris 
Island. If he has begun it, drive him out. . . ." 1S And the next 
day, fearing that Du Pont and General Hunter might inter- 
pret the presidential order as a reprimand, Lincoln amplified 
his thoughts in a private note written jointly to the two com- 
manders. "No censure upon you or either of you is intended. 
We still hope that by cordial and judicious cooperation you 
can take the batteries on Morris Island and Sullivan's Island 
and Fort Sumter. But whether you can or not, we wish the 
demonstration kept up for a time for a collateral and very 
important object. We wish the attempt to be a real one 
(though not a desperate one) if it affords any considerable 
chance of success. But if prosecuted as a demonstration only, 
this must not become public or the whole effect will be lost. 
Once again "before Charleston, do not leave till further orders 
from here/' 19 

Du Pont, meanwhile, had returned all monitors to Port 
Royal to repair their battle damage and get them ready, ac- 
cording to the earlier orders he had received, to be sent to 
Farragut in the Gulf. A quarrel between Du Pont and General 
Hunter had arisen over withdrawal of monitor support for 
troops on Folly Island. Another controversy grew out of the 
bad press reports. The Baltimore American attacked Du Pont 
in a slanted narrative of the Charleston affair, and Du Pont 
traced it to a writer who had been given hospitality on board 
a navy-chartered steamer. Du Pont's request to publish his 
detailed dispatches was refused by Welles, because to do so 
would officially blast the reputation of the monitors. Du Pont 
exchanged formal polemics with the Secretary. His sense of 
personal injury loomed in his own mind larger than the 
President's orders to renew the demonstration off Charleston. 
Not only did the discouraged officer make no move to carry 
out Lincoln's order, he did not even acknowledge its receipt. 
Worst of all, his want of energy at Charleston permitted 
Confederate divers to salvage the two long eleven-inch colum- 

Du Pont and Dahlgren at Charleston 239 

biads from the sunken Keokuk. 20 On June 3, therefore, Welles 
detached Du Pont. 

Dahlgren, whom the President had long wished to favor, 
now succeeded to the command of the South Atlantic Block- 
ading Squadron. Welles bucked and squirmed in disapproval 
of Dahlgren's use of personal influence with Lincoln. At first, 
the Secretary insisted that Dahlgren retain control over gun- 
nery developments and accept temporary command of iron- 
clads under Admiral Foote, but Foote's sudden death de- 
prived Welles of his only suitable alternate, and Dahlgren, 
Lincoln's favorite, won preferment by default. At the same 
time another engineer, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, 
replaced Hunter. 

Charleston operations under the Dahlgren-Gillmore team 
followed the slow tactics of attrition and siege. With monitors 
supplying artillery, giving flank support, and enfilading 
enemy positions, General Gillmore landed on the southern 
end of Morris Island and fought his way north. His conquest 
of Fort Wagner at the upper end of the island cost him two 
months of arduous effort and the loss of sixteen hundred 
men. 21 Dahlgren's cooperating monitors suffered from the 
fire of various supporting forts as well as from that of Wagner. 

When, on September 7, Fort Wagner was suddenly evacu- 
ated, the Union commanders were surprised and unready for 
their next move. Both Dahlgren and Gillmore, each acting 
in ignorance of the other's plan, hastily launched boat expedi- 
tions in an effort to seize the pile of rubble that once was Fort 
Sumter. If they could overpower the remnants of its garrison, 
the mound of broken brick could still be used as gun plat- 
forms against forts remaining in enemy hands. Under its 
friendly guns, the Navy might remove the harbor obstruc- 
tions so that Dahlgren might yet fulfill Du Font's grand 
dream of sailing in silently to the wharves of Charleston. 

Four hundred sailors from the fleet were sent as a landing 
party to assault Fort Sumter. Towed close under the crum- 
bling walls of the fort, they were here discovered by Con- 
federate picket boats and brought under fire by Fort Moultrie. 


Many of the seamen had difficulty finding a place to land. 
Others who scrambled up the pile of rubble on the southeast 
face ran into a sheet of musket fire. The attackers were 
thrown back with the loss of 130 killed, wounded, and 

Although Dahlgren's health often confined him to his bed 
even when General Gillmore came to the flagship for con- 
ferences, he clung to his job afloat with determination. As 
Welles had predicted, some older officers and friends of 
Du Pont were displeased with Dahlgren's appointment, and 
their complaints erupted from time to time as newspaper 
censure of his slow progress at Charleston. Dahlgren's refusal 
to place his naval storming party under Gillmore's control, as 
the general requested, strained relations between admiral 
and general. In October two of Gillmore's subordinates 
visited Welles to denounce Dahlgren "as incompetent, im- 
becile, and insane." The canny Secretary bridled as always 
when any part of the Navy came under fire from the Army, 
and noted that Dahlgren was "neither a fool nor insane." 
"Both Dahlgren and Gillmore are out of place; they are both 
intelligent, but they can better acquit themselves as ord- 
nance officers than in active command." 22 

After the Federal forces occupied Fort Wagner, Charleston 
was no longer the happy harbor for blockade-runners that it 
had been. Henceforth, Gillmore's long-range bombardment 
of Charleston from the swamps of Morris and James Islands 
and the maneuvering of Dahlgren's ironclads inside the 
harbor channels sealed the starvation blockade at this im- 
portant point. The Federal fort at the mouth of the harbor 
also penned in Charleston's ironclad rams so that they were 
able to take no further part in the war. Like his predecessor 
Du Pont, Admiral Dahlgren chose not to risk barging through 
Charleston's channel obstructions for fear Confederate forces 
might capture a disabled ironclad and turn it against the 
blockade fleet of wooden ships. 

The final year of desultory naval blockade at Charleston 
was punctuated by the exploits of Confederate semisub- 

Du Pont and Dahlgren at Charleston 241 

mersible torpedo boats. These "Davids," so-called because 
built to fight Goliaths like the New Ironsides^ were cigar- 
shaped cylinders, six feet in diameter and forty to fifty feet 
long, powered by man-driven propellers and armed with 
sixty-pound torpedoes. Several of these fragile craft sank 
during practice maneuvers. One exploded a torpedo under, 
but failed to sink, the New Ironsides,, and lost all its own crew 
but the man on deck who had guided her. Another, which 
sank the wooden blockader HousatoniCj followed her victim 
to the bottom with her entire crew. 

Under the circumstances, Dahlgren and Gillmore could 
not very well press for a clear-cut military decision. Their 
battle, indeed, like that of the Confederate defenders was 
primarily political. Lincoln craved victory over Fort Sumter 
and Charleston because these objectives had become symbols 
of Secession. And the Confederates were similarly motivated 
to retain these positions. 

Charleston remained impregnable behind its forts, its 
harbor obstructions, and its sea-island moats until General 
Sherman's fateful march to her undefended back door. 


The Red River Campaign 


ment would be able to send a general to Paris with instruc- 
tions to get his legs under Napoleon's mahogany conference 
table and tell him to clear out of Mexico. But in midsummer 
of 1863 Lincoln could only register a quiet diplomatic objec- 
tion to France's new puppet empire in Mexico, however 
flagrantly its establishment violated the Monroe Doctrine. 

After the victories at Vicksburg and Port Hudson had 
opened the Mississippi River, Secretary of State Seward sud- 
denly became alarmed over the situation in Texas. The 
Confederates had recaptured Galveston in January of 1863 
and since that hour there had not been a foot of ground in 
all of Texas under Federal control. At Cabinet meeting on 
July 31, Seward whispered to Lincoln, Stanton, and Welles 
his fear that the French Emperor might try to get control of 
Texas, and urged "the immediate occupation of Galveston." 
Welles was disgusted with Seward's secretiveness. He thought 
the subject should be openly canvassed by the entire Cabinet, 
since directly or indirectly it concerned all of them, but being 
a diffident person he said nothing, and in the afternoon met 
again with Seward and Stanton in Halleck's office. Here 
Welles advocated striking Indianola, Texas, in place of 
Galveston. "Where, 11 asked Halleck, "is Indianola? What are 
its advantages?" "In Western Texas," replied Welles. "It is 
much nearer the Rio Grande and the Mexican border, con- 
sequently is better situated to check advances from the other 


The Red River Campaign 243 

side of the Rio Grande; the harbor has deeper water than 
Galveston." 1 Welles, had the exigencies of the blockade in 
mind and did not relish another investment of slender mili- 
tary resources in Galveston. Halleck rubbed his elbows as 
usual when puzzled over what to do, and said he had just 
written General Banks and wanted his reply before deciding. 
That evening in his diary Welles, understanding the matter 
to have been left undecided, entered an acid comment: 2 

This is a specimen of the management of affairs. A majority of 
the members of the Cabinet are not permitted to know what is 
doing. Mr. Seward has something in regard to the schemes and 
designs of Louis Napoleon; he cannot avoid communicating with 
the Secretaries of War and the Navy, hence the door is partially 
open to them. Others are excluded. Great man Halleck is con- 
sulted, but is not ready, has received nothing from others, who 
he intends shall have the responsibility. Therefore we must wait 
a few weeks and not improbably lose a favorable opportunity. 

While the War and Navy Departments reached no im- 
mediate decision on where to strike in Texas, Halleck, 
prodded by Seward, got off a directive leaving that decision 
up to General Banks: 

There are important reasons why our flag should be restored 
in some point of Texas with the least possible delay. Do this by 
land, at Galveston, at Indianola, or at any other point you may 
deem preferable. If by sea, Admiral Farragut will cooperate. 

There are reasons why the movement should be as prompt as 
possible. 3 

This directive was sent on August 6 by telegraph through 
General Grant at Vicksburg, and thence by special messenger 
to Banks at New Orleans. 

Banks received it on the fifteenth. At once he set aside his 
long-laid plans for cooperating with Farragut against Mobile 
and began preparations for an amphibious movement upon 
Sabine at the southeastern corner of Texas, which was the 
nearest point to New Orleans. Banks was justified by the 
meagerness of his forces in seeking the cheapest and quickest 


means to fulfill his instructions. In this, however, he failed 
to reckon either with Confederate defense works at Sabine, 
which repelled his quickly organized attack, or with General 
Halleck's growing personal preference for an amphibian 
expedition into northeastern Texas along the line of the 
Red River. 

Before Banks received Halleck's first directive, the general- 
in-chief was writing a second. "That order/' Halleck ex- 
plained, "as I understood it at the time, was of a diplomatic 
rather than a military character, and resulted from some 
European complications, or, more properly speaking, was 
intended to prevent such complications." 4 He was not 
changing the original order; i.e., Banks was still free to choose 
the place and manner of attack, but he was anxious for Banks 
to know that he himself favored the Red River route rather 
than an assault on the coast. "If it is necessary, as urged by 
Mr. Seward, that the flag be restored to some one point in 
Texas, that can be best and most safely effected by a com- 
bined military and naval movement up the Red River to 
Alexandria, Natchitoches/ or Shreveport, and the military 
occupation of northern Texas." 6 

A few weeks later when Grant suggested a quick stab from 
Natchez against Klrby Smith through Monroe, Louisiana, 
Halleck saw a chance to tie in Grant's move with Banks's. 
"Your plan/ 1 wrote the general-in-chief to Grant, "will agree 
very well with the line of operations suggested to General 
Banks, viz: to ascend the Red river to Shreveport and move 
on Marshall, Texas." Grant was directed to confer on this 
matter with General Banks. "The government is exceed- 
ingly anxious that our troops should occupy some points in 
Texas with the least possible delay/' 6 

Banks, meanwhile, free to make his own decision, landed 
forces at Aransas Pass near Corpus Christi and at Browns- 
ville, the great Confederate blockade-running base at the 
mouth of the Rio Grande. The route via the Red River, he 
explained to the general-in-chief as tactfully as he could, in- 
volved an extended march over territory deficient in food 

The Red River Campaign 245 

and fodder with water-borne supplies uncertain because of 
low water in the Red River. "The rivers and bayous have not 
been so low in this State for fifty years, and Admiral Porter 
informs me that the mouth of the Red River and also the 
mouth of the Atchafalaya, are both hermetically sealed to his 
vessels by almost dry sand-bars, so that he cannot get any 
vessels into any of the streams." 7 Regardless of the routes 
taken or areas seized, Banks had now carried out the govern- 
ment's injunction to plant the flag on Texas soil. 

The diplomatic objective achieved, Halleck might have 
dropped his idea of a thrust into Texas via Alexandria and 
Shreveport had it not been for the situation in Arkansas. Like 
Louisiana, Arkansas was in process of becoming a recon- 
structed state; i.e., a new state government was being organ- 
ized by Unionists and "reconstructed" Rebels who were tak- 
ing the President's oath of allegiance. That this civil process 
should be menaced by the activities of Confederate General 
Kirby Smith gave Halleck so much concern that he ordered 
Grant to aid Steele in the occupation of Little Rock. "If 
Steele and Banks succeed," Halleck wrote Grant on September 
9, "all trans-Mississippi must return to the Union." 8 

Halleck obtained from the Navy Department assurance 
that Admiral Porter would cooperate as soon as the stage of 
water in the Red River would permit it. The river gunboats 
would be needed to smash Fort De Russy in the lower reaches 
of the river, to convoy transports and commissary boats, and 
to deal with any shore batteries or ironclad rams that the 
Confederates might have near Shreveport. 

As the months rolled by, Shreveport loomed ever more 
important on Halleck's map in Washington. The Rebel 
capital of the State of Louisiana was important in view of the 
President's efforts to reconstruct the state. It was the chief 
Confederate military depot for the southwest. In Federal 
hands it would become a superb base for operations against 

In far-away Washington, Halleck confined himself to sug- 
gestions and occasional directives that commanders on the 


ground consult one another with a view to collaborating. He 
himself never drafted an operation order for the campaign up 
the Red River. Banks in New Orleans finally came to accept 
the general-in-chiefs views as "the government's instruc- 
tions/' and so, eventually, did the other participants. As the 
plan was finally worked out by the various collaborators, 
Banks with seventeen thousand men, reinforced by ten thou- 
sand under A. J. Smith temporarily detached from the Army 
of the Tennessee, would march up the line of the Red River, 
accompanied by Admiral Porter's gunboats. Near Shreveport 
they would be joined by Steele with ten thousand, marching 
direct from Little Rock. The combined Federal force of 
thirty-seven thousand men would then rout the Confederates' 
twenty-five thousand under Kirby Smith, Dick Taylor, and 
Sterling Price. Shreveport would become the Chattanooga 
of the West. The Confederacy east of the Mississippi would 
be separated by a wide band of Union-held territory from the 
remnants of the Confederacy in the West. 

Halleck's failure to draft an operation order left Banks 
in the unsatisfactory military role of "first among equals," 
who could make suggestions but not issue commands to his 
associates from other military departments. The Navy, of 
course, was a completely free agent, coordinate with the 
Army, to be tactfully reasoned with rather than ordered. 

Not only was there a complete absence of unified command, 
the associated leaders were motivated by a variety of aims 
rather than by a single clear-cut military objective. 

A. J. Smith's force was on temporary "loan," its main objec- 
tive being participation in Sherman's Atlanta campaign. 
After thirty days, Sherman stipulated, A. J. Smith would have 
to return to the main operations east of the Mississippi. 

In addition to their military problem, Banks and Steele 
were promoting civil government. Elections were scheduled 
in the hinterland of Arkansas and Louisiana, as new territory 
was brought within the Union lines. 

Moreover, the rumored two hundred thousand to three 
hundred thousand bales of precious cotton along the Red 

The Red River Campaign 247 

River cast borealis lights over the whole country. Banks's 
commissary officers were provided with quantities of rope and 
bagging against expected seizures of cotton. Admiral Porter's 
seamen, flushed with recent captures of prize cotton up the 
Ouachita River, dreamed of even greater windfalls up the 
Red River. 

Accompanying the expedition, in spite of Banks's restric- 
tions, were civilian speculators, river pilots, captains of 
steamboats chartered as transports or supply craft, representa- 
tives of state or welfare organizations having troops in the 
expedition, and the like. Most prominent among civilian 
speculators was the Honorable Samuel L. Casey of Kentucky, 
who the previous December had presented to President 
Lincoln a scheme for bringing out Red River cotton from 
behind the military lines. Casey had a brother-in-law who was 
a Confederate colonel under Kirby Smith, and through him, 
presumably, had made some arrangement with the Con- 
federate authorities. The pass which Lincoln gave to Casey 
authorized him to ascend the Red River with as many as 
three "inferior stern-wheel steamboats . . . taking in tow any 
number of barges, scows, flats." He was to go "without money 
and without cargoes outgoing, and only with crews to navigate 
the whole, and necessary provisions for himself and said 
crews/' and was to be given safe conduct "on his return to 
our lines . . . with any cargoes he may bring." 9 At the height 
of the military campaign, this curious document in Mr. 
Lincoln's holograph, when presented to Porter and Banks, 
gained admission to the expedition-crowded Red River for 
Casey and his friends and his miscellaneous vessels. 

Porter marshaled eighteen gunboats at the mouth of the 
Red River the first week in March, 1864, twelve of them 
ironclad. Since the fall of Vicksburg, the river ironclads had 
seen little action, and Porter was anxious to unlimber their 
guns against Fort De Russy. The Red River had now risen 
enough to float them in the lower river below Alexandria, 
but whether they could ascend above that city depended upon 
the river's reaching a high-water stage as in a normal year. 


Though Admiral Porter professed great faith that the needed 
rise would occur, he was to be proved in this instance a mis- 
taken optimist. 

After A. J. Smith's twenty transports joined the squadron 
on the eleventh, Porter sent the ironclad Eastport, under 
Captain S. L. Phelps, up the river to clear a channel through 
the rafts and driftwood obstructions near Fort De Russy. 
Smith's men landed and marched in back of the Confederate 
fort to attack its undefended side in conjunction with a 
bombardment by the ironclads. To Porter's annoyance Fort 
De Russy's garrison surrendered to A. J. Smith without a 
fight, "Colonel De Russy, from appearances, is a most excel- 
lent engineer to build forts," Porter reported to Welles, "but 
does not seem to know what to do with them after they are 
constructed. The same remark may apply to his obstructions, 
which look well on paper but don't stop our advance. The 
efforts of these people to keep up this war remind one very 
much of the antics of Chinamen, who build canvas forts, 
paint hideous dragons on their shields, turn somersets, and 
yell in the faces of their enemies to frighten them, and then 
turn away at the first sign o an engagement. It puts the 
sailors and soldiers out of all patience with them after the 
trouble they have had in getting here/' 10 

A. J. Smith covered the remaining distance to Alexandria 
on foot, flanked on the right by Porter's overwhelming force. 
In the lower reaches of the Red River, Porter's men tumbled 
several hundred bales of cotton onto navy coal barges, while 
two of his fast tinclads (the Lexington and the Ouachita), 
sprinting ahead, reached Alexandria in time to see the last of 
a fleet of Rebel transports disappear over the "falls" or 
rapids into the upper river. A Confederate ferryboat which 
had grounded had been set afire to prevent its falling into 
Federal hands. 

At Alexandria, Porter's seamen emptied warehouses of 
cotton. While waiting for Banks's army, which had been de- 
layed for ten days by torrential rains west of New Orleans, the 
sailors fanned out over the countryside and brought in cotton 

The Red River Campaign 249 

from plantations. Sometimes these naval machinists put dis- 
used gins into operation, and ginned and baled their cap- 
tured cotton, using old ships* awnings as cover material. 
"Jack made pretty good cotton bales/' boasted the admiral. 11 
When Banks's wagon trains came in, the skylarking seamen 
borrowed army mules, painted them with navy initials two 
feet high, and hauled cotton from a distance. Confederate 
government cotton, stenciled with "C.S.A." on one end, was 
marked "U.S.N." on the other. Where ownership was doubt- 
ful, ingenious tars labeled their bales: "C.S.A.-U.S.N." The 
late-arriving Army regarded the profitable cotton-raiding 
pranks of the seamen with the jaundiced eye of envy. An 
army officer only half in jest inquired of the admiral whether 
the initials on prize cotton meant "Cotton Stealing Associa- 
tionUnited States Navy." Others, more direct, asked General 
Banks to arrest the sailors. "Make war upon them, upon the 
ground that they are engaged in a business which does not 
belong to the Navy at all." 

"Admiral Porter/' replied Banks, "is, doubtless, acting 
under instructions from the Navy Department, and it is not 
my business to interfere with him/' 12 

Banks had other worries. There was the election at Alex- 
andria with its oratory, flagwavings, and firecrackers. In this 
political business, the Army took pains not to interfere. On 
the twenty-seventh, the day after his army arrived, Banks 
received by special messenger a curt note from Grant. The 
newly appointed Lieutenant General frowned upon Banks's 
diversified activities west of the Mississippi. "Should you find 
that the taking of Shreveport will occupy ten or fifteen days 
more time than General Sherman gave his troops to be absent 
from their command, you will send them back at the time 
specified . . . even if it should lead to the abandonment of the 
main object of the expedition/* 1S 

Banks was ten days behind schedule, but even had he 
arrived on time he could not have moved forward any 
quicker because of low water over the falls at Alexandria. 

During the past two weeks, the contrary river had been 


rising a few tantalizing inches a day. The Federal hospital 
boat Woodford; which attempted too soon to go tip over the 
falls, was wrecked. 

Porter dragged the heavy Eastport above the rapids. The 
process took two days, while transports and lighter craft 
passed around her up the swirling channel. On the twenty- 
eighth Banks set out overland for Natchitoches and Porter 
sailed upstream for the neighboring village of Grand Ecore, 
about a third of the distance between Alexandria and Shreve- 
port. The gunboats were accompanied by Kilby Smith's 
brigade on transports and a host of commissary craft. Some of 
the heaviest of the chartered supply boats, which Porter had 
expressly forbidden to ascend into the upper river, came any- 
way. For the all-important cotton their civilian owners and 
pilots ignored commands and navigational hazards alike. 
Confederate forces hovering in the offing just ahead of the 
Federal invaders put the torch to cotton. General Banks's 
angered quartermasters, their boats piled with useless ropes 
and bagging, blamed the Navy. The Rebels would not have 
burned their cotton, said they, had the Navy not begun con- 
fiscating it. Their fallacious reasoning assumed that Southern- 
ers preferred for the Federal Army to get it. 

After Banks's election routine had been repeated at Grand 
Ecore and Natchitoches, the combined expedition set out for 
Springfield Landing, a hundred miles further on and about 
forty miles from Shreveport. Again their routes diverged. 
Banks moved on the comparatively straight, narrow road 
through pine forests. Porter's waterway, narrower than ever, 
writhed and twisted about on itself. Around its sharp-angle 
turns the reluctant ironclads sometimes had to be coaxed by 
tugboats at bows and sterns. Snags and sand bars that threat- 
ened the squadron would normally have been covered to a 
safe depth by the spring floods. But it was not so this year. 
Nature favored the defense in this campaign, as the depth of 
water in the upper river sank disastrously. 

Porter was four days making a hundred miles. Fortunately 
he was stopped near Springfield Landing by a channel block, 

The Red River Campaign 251 

consisting of an old steamer loaded with bricks and sunk 
across the stream. While Porter was examining the cynical 
invitations to the Yankees that had been posted on the hulk 
and was considering how best to blast it out of his way, there 
appeared a young cavalry officer in blue with news that 
Banks had been badly defeated near Mansfield, Louisiana, 
and was now falling back to Grand Ecore. 

With heavy hearts Porter and Kilby Smith reversed course 
to bump back down the snaggy stream. Several army trans- 
ports grounded and had to be towed. One such was dis- 
covered to have been filled to the rails with molasses, tar, 
turpentine, and other produce that had been loaded at 
Alexandria! General Kilby Smith's headquarters boat towed 
one of Porter's shallow-draft monitors. 

Near Coushatta the transports were attacked by Confeder- 
ate infantry under General Jack Green. 14 At the ambuscade 
the river banks stood high above the pilothouses of the flotilla 
so that sharpshooters could annoy the ironclads as on Deer 
Creek in the Yazoo country. However, the hurricane decks of 
the transports were higher off the water, and Kilby Smith's 
men, shielded by bales of cotton and hay and sacks of oats 
covered with wet soldiers' blankets, returned the fire of the 

Up to the brink of the river dashed the Confederates, 
exhilarated by their recent victory over General Banks and 
fortified by canteens of Louisiana rum. Boat howitzers 
mowed down wave after gray wave of these reckless zealots. 
Their leader, General Green, was decapitated by a cannon- 
ball as he galloped across the field, and his horse streaking on 
with headless rider made a gory splash against a somber 
backdrop of pines. 

General Banks dug trenches around Grand Ecore and 
waited here for ten days while Porter attempted to save the 
Eastport. This heaviest ironclad to ascend the upper river, 
having been left below the shallows at Grand Ecore, had 
come above them to protect the Army and had been caught 
by the fall in depth. The unwieldy Eastportj after having 


been dragged over part of the rapids, ran on a torpedo which 
opened a small hole in her bottom. In addition, she scotched 
hard on a log jam. Although her case appeared hopeless, 
Admiral Porter made a quick trip to Alexandria in the tin- 
clad Cricket to get steam pump boats, but in the end he was 
compelled to explode her guns and blow up her magazines. 

During these anxious days at Grand Ecore, Banks received 
another warning from Grant that A. J. Smith's men should 
be promptly returned to Sherman. Banks now determined to 
abandon the expedition. When Porter learned that, prior to 
his defeat, Banks had allowed his advance cavalry to be 
separated from his infantry support by eight miles of wagons 
on a narrow trail through a dense forest, he lost all faith in 
his capacity as a general. "I cannot express to you my entire 
disappointment with this department/' Porter wrote Sher- 
man. "You know my opinion of political generals. It is a cry- 
ing sin to put the lives of thousands in the hands of such men, 
and the time has come when there should be a stop put to 
it." 15 Porter, goaded by fear that the general might retreat at 
any moment and leave the fleet stranded, unburdened him- 
self angrily and at length to Secretary Welles. "I do not see 
why a fleet should not have the protection of an army as well 
as an army have the protection of a fleet. If we are left here 
aground, our communications will be cut off and we will 
have to destroy the vessels. I do not intend to destroy a row 
boat if it can be helped, and if the proper course is pursued 
we will lose nothing/' 16 

Not only the military were unhappy at Grand Ecore. The 
Honorable Samuel E. Casey, with the President's special 
permit, lost a barge load of choice cotton, which was seized 
by the Army to piece out a pontoon bridge. 

Although Banks was not at this time aware of it, his turning 
back from Shreveport did not in the least disconcert General 
Steele. That general had insuperable problems of his own 
which shortly forced him to retire upon Little Rock. 17 

Banks's retreat to Alexandria carried him away from the 
shores of the Red River and left the Rebels free to harass fleet 

The Red River Campaign 

and transports. The winding and twisting about of the river 
enabled the Rebels to fire on passing steamboats and, by 
hurrying across narrow necks of land, to hit the boats again 
at the next turn in the river. Near the mouth of the Cane 
River, the Confederates established an artillery ambush which 
seemed particularly vindictive toward the navy's pump boats, 
which were crowded to overflowing with families of fugitive 
Negroes. Porter himself ran past this nest of hornets in the 
tinclad Cricket. During the passage the little craft, receiving 
thirty-eight hits, lost fifteen in killed and wounded out of a 
crew of fifty. 18 Porter was forced to use Negroes to man the 
guns and, when the vessel's captain and pilot were disabled, 
he himself took the wheel and steered her beyond the zone of 

Over the falls at Alexandria the water was only three feet, 
four inches deep, and the ironclads required seven feet. "If 
General Banks should determine to evacuate this country/' 
Porter wrote Welles, "the gunboats will be cut off from all 
communication with the Mississippi. It can not be possible 
that the country would be willing to have eight ironclads, 
three or four other gunboats, and many transports sacrificed 
without an effort to save them. It would be the worst thing 
that has happened this war." 19 

The Navy feared that Banks would desert the fleet. Captain 
T. O. Selfridge, Porter's second in command, was told by 
army officers that General Banks had said that the whole cost 
of the naval part of the expedition would not equal the cost of 
the subsistence of his army for one day. But by the time of 
Banks's return to Alexandria, Grant had heard of the peril to 
the fleet and had ordered Banks to keep A. J. Smith until the 
fleet got out. 

At one o the darkest moments in the navy's history, 
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Bailey of the Fourth Wisconsin 
Cavalry proposed to construct a dam to release the imprisoned 
fleet. The admiral did not believe it could be done but was 
willing to try anything. Banks assigned three thousand men, 
and between two hundred and three hundred wagons to do 


the work. As he was desperately short of forage, the time he 
could remain at Alexandria was limited and the work had 
to be pushed day and night. 

The rapids at Alexandria consisted of two stretches of 
rocky "falls*' a mile apart, the channel between them filled 
with rugged rocks. Bailey constructed a dam below the lower 
falls. 20 Several pioneer regiments felled pine trees to make 
cribs for brick and stone. All the neighboring steam mills were 
torn down for material. Teams moved in every direction. 
Flatboats were built to bring down stone from quarries up 
the river. After sections of the dam had been built out from 
either side of the river, four navy barges filled with brick 
were sunk in midstream between the sections. 

In eight days of working the water had been raised suffi- 
ciently to allow three of the lighter vessels to cross the upper 
falls and come down and be ready to pass when a sluiceway 
was opened in the dam. In another day the water would be 
high enough to float the other vessels over the upper falls. 
But now the pressure of the water became so great that two 
of the barges were swept prematurely downstream out of the 
sluiceway. Seeing this accident, the admiral jumped on a 
horse and galloped to the upper falls to order the Lexington 
to attempt a passage. The vessel came over just in time, then 
steered for the opening in the dam, where, in the turbulent 
waters, destruction seemed to await her. "Thousands of beat- 
ing hearts looked on anxious for the result/' wrote Porter; 
"the silence was so great as the Lexington approached the 
dam that a pin might almost be heard to fall. She entered the 
gap with a full head of steam on, pitched down the roaring 
torrent, made two or three spasmodic rolls, hung for a 
moment on the rocks below, was then swept into deep water 
by the current and rounded to, safely into the bank. Thirty 
thousand voices rose in one deafening cheer, and universal 
joy seemed to pervade the face of every man present." 21 

The accident to the dam dropped the water level and pre- 
vented the heavier ironclads from crossing the upper falls, 
but Colonel Bailey and his frantic workers built wing dams 

The Red River Campaign 255 

out from either bank just above each of the falls so as to raise 
deep flumes of water. In desperation the Navy stripped off the 
two-inch side armor from the river ironclads, tugged it up- 
stream, and dumped it in quicksand. Guns were taken out of 
the ships and carried on heavy army caissons to be mounted 
below the falls. Some cannon of antiquated pattern Porter 

On May 1 1 the Mound City, the Carondelet, and the Pitts- 
burg were dragged through the upper flume. The channel 
was very crooked and too narrow for comfort but they made 
it. Next day the Ozark, the Louisville, and the Chillicothe 
were brought through. With hatches battened down, the six 
ironclads one at a time plunged into the lower flume. "The 
passage of these vessels was a most beautiful sight," Porter 
reported. 22 They unshipped a few rudders and chafed minor 
holes in their hulls, but came through with the loss of only 
one man swept off a tug. 

The anticipated trouble getting over bars in the lower 
river, which the naval squadron had dreaded, did not mate- 
rialize. Very high backwaters of the Mississippi raised the 
level in the Red River all the way from its mouth 150 miles 
upstream to Alexandria. 

From uncertain beginnings in the suggestions of General 
Halleck, the Red River expedition had blundered into the 
hinterland of Louisiana, poorly equipped for the military 
work it was expected to perform, badly managed, and terribly 
buffeted by bad luck on the water. From its worst predica- 
ment, Mr. Lincoln's Navy had been extricated by the labors 
of a brilliant young army engineer. The sorry debacle which 
overtook General Banks in the piny woods had been relieved 
by the heroic engineering victory of the Army and the 
indomitable, hard-bitten courage of the men of Mr. Lincoln's 

During this troubled campaign, Lincoln had found a new 
general to replace Halleck, and upon General Grant the Red 
River episode's many lessons in the conduct of amphibian 
operations were not lost. 


Mobile Bay 

1862, Farragut wanted to push on at once to Mobile. He 
wished to strike while the Confederates were still groggy 
from loss of their chief city and before they had had time to 
build up the defenses of this second most important port on 
the Gulf. For this reason, after the capitulation of the New 
Orleans* forts he sent the Mortar Flotilla into the Gulf to 
await his coming. "Mobile is so ripe now/ 1 Commander 
Porter insisted, "that it would fall to us like a mellow pear/' a 
At this juncture, however, Lincoln vetoed Mobile and rushed 
Farragut's deep-sea warships five hundred miles inland in a 
singlehanded naval effort to seize Vicksburg. When Farragut 
returned from Vicksburg to New Orleans, battered and sore 
after his unequal encounter with the Confederate river iron- 
clad Arkansas and his fruitless battles with snags and shoals, 
his ships were in no condition to attack the greatly strength- 
ened Mobile forts, nor was General Butler at New Orleans 
able to assign any of his meager forces to cooperate against 

Bargain-rate conquests on the Texas coast now beguiled 
Farragut's blockaders. Without the loss of a man, Galveston, 
Corpus Christi, and Sabine City were seized by blockaders 
who found carrying on their blockade work, inside of harbors 
less onerous and more effective than outside. Their fancied 
safety, however, was fool's gold. Without adequate troops to 
garrison their easily captured cities, the snug-harbor block- 


Mobile Bay 

aders shortly found themselves surprised, captured, burned, 
sunk, or driven out. 

No cheap victory was possible and none was attempted at 
Mobile. The main channel into Mobile Bay was guarded by 
two brick forts of approximately the same vintage as the forts 
below New Orleans. Fort Morgan on Mobile Point was a 
three-tiered pentagon, in general appearance resembling Fort 
Sumter; while on Dauphin Island to the west of it was the 
smaller Fort Gaines. Northwestward beyond Fort Gaines lay 
Fort Powell, built on a shellbank to cover the lesser entrances 
from Mississippi Sound into Mobile Bay. Just inside the main 
entrance o the bay was an irregular pocket of deep water 
three miles wide and eight miles long. Only the far end of 
this pocket was outside the range o the gatepost forts that 
flanked the main channel. Beyond this pocket lay a body of 
water too shallow for Farragut's battleships. These shallows, 
varying up to fifteen miles in width, extended about thirty 
miles northward to the city of Mobile. 

Tantalizing information came through to the blockaders in 
an unending stream. Vessels sent to Mobile by General Butler 
to procure flour for the starving people of New Orleans 
brought information on the lack of military preparations 
after New Orleans fell. Fugitive Negroes told of their feverish 
work upon the several fortifications. Confederate draftees, 
deserting from the forts themselves, supplied Farragut an 
accurate picture of developing Confederate defenses. Fort 
Morgan had held only a handful ("two fire companies*') in 
April of 1862. By August, its garrison had swelled to seven 
hundred men, and they had mounted a total of seventy-nine 
guns. 2 The place was now so strong as to require a regular 
military investment. 

In the fall of 1862 Farragut* s preparations to attack Mobile 
with wooden ships were categorically discouraged by Wash- 
ington. McClellan had been outgeneraled again. Lee had 
invaded Maryland. British-built cruisers had eluded the dip- 
lomatic dragnet and put to sea, to be armed in neutral waters 
for raids on the high seas against United States commerce. 


There were, Gustavus Fox explained informally to the rest- 
less admiral, not enough ships to allow him an adequate 
force to attack Mobile. Crippled vessels were limping into 
Northern navy yards faster than they could be repaired, and, 
to aggravate the shortage, the department had been compelled 
to set up a new West Indian Flying Squadron under Com- 
modore Charles Wilkes to try to catch the Confederate raiders 
Alabama and Florida. Mobile would have to wait. "We don't 
think you have force enough/' wrote Fox, "and we do not 

expect you to run risks, crippled as you are my opinion is 

that wood has taken risk enough, and that iron will be the 
next affair." 3 As for the new monitors expected by the end 
of the year, they were earmarked for Charleston. As soon as 
Du Pont captured Charleston, Fox promised, ironclads should 
be sent to Farragut. 

So Farragut with his wooden ships established as close a 
blockade as possible and waited for two years. Du Pont 
fought his unprecedented battle against forts in Charleston 
Harbor and was replaced by Dahlgren. The unending bom- 
bardment of the Citadel of Secession may have been im- 
portant in building Northern morale, as Lincoln evidently 
believed, but it tied up the ironclads and kept them from ful- 
filling a valid military objective at Mobile. In the summer of 
1863 Farragut went north for needed rest. 

For two years following the fall of New Orleans the Con- 
federates made sport of the blockaders off Mobile. When 
blockade-running became too hazardous to risk sending out 
thirty-one kegs, each containing five thousand dollars in 
specie to pay interest on their debt to British creditors, 
citizens of Mobile persuaded a venal English consul to ship 
the kegs as British property to Havana on board a British 
warship. 4 Of course, when the trick was exposed, Her 
Majesty's Government disavowed the act and discharged the 
consul, but the specie was not returned. From Mobile, raid- 
ing parties sailed out through shallow Mississippi Sound 
Farragut always had too few light-draft blockaders to control 
this sound. At the mouths of the Mississippi River, the 

Mobile Bay 259 

raiders hid themselves and like pirates pounced upon unsus- 
pecting merchant craft. Twice when their prizes were too 
heavy to bring home through the sound they entered via the 
main channel, quietly eluding the blockade fleet. Commander 
John N. Maffitt, C. S. Navy, plagued by yellow fever and 
neutrality regulations, hoisted an English ensign over his 
British-built cruiser Florida and headed toward Mobile Bay. 
The blockaders were so anxious not to precipitate a foreign 
war that they permitted the intrepid stranger to ignore their 
challenge until it was too late for their random shots to sink 
him. The senior blockading officer was cashiered by Lincoln 
for timidity or want of judgment. 

When Farragut returned to the Gulf in January of 1864, 
the need for action against Mobile was more urgent than 
ever. The Confederates had been pushing the construction of 
ironclads not only to defend Mobile but to assume the offen- 
sive and break the blockade. It was a time when all around 
the blockade coast the Confederates were improvising iron- 
clads. In the sounds of North Carolina the ironclad ram 
Albemarle was taking shape. Charleston and Savannah were 
riveting railroad iron over heavy wooden casemates. Far 
inland, at Selma, Alabama, the ironclad Tennessee was under 
construction, with three courses of wrought-iron plates, two 
inches thick. 5 The Tennessee was built on the lines of the 
Merrimack; only shallower, more manageable. Confederates 
claimed she would surpass the Merrimack in power. In addi- 
tion there were three other gunboats at Mobile: the Selma, 
the Games, and the Morgan. These, with their heavy wooden 
casemates painted black and tallow-greased, were described 
to Farragut as ironclads by deserters who claimed to have 
worked on them. Supervising construction at Mobile and 
preparing actively to advance against Farragut's blockaders 
was Admiral Franklin Buchanan, the South's ranking naval 
officer and the experienced first commander of the Merrimack. 

It was the report that the Tennessee was finished that had 
brought Farragut back from his furlough, impatient, chafing 
at delay, almost ready to plunge into Mobile Bay without an 


iron ship. There was the chance that he might catch "Old 
Buck" at the embarrassing moment, when his powerful iron- 
clad, minus its guns, fuel, and ammunition, was being floated 
on caissons across Dog River Bar into the deep water of the 
bay. Farragut would have taken that chance had it not been 
for the fact that his own heavy ships could not navigate the 
shallow upper reaches of the bay, and Farragut's few light- 
drafts were fragile matchboxes by comparison with the Con- 
federate ironclad. 

What Farragut urgently needed was a light-draft monitor 
for the shallow-water work at Dog River Bar. The Navy 
Department, indeed, had foreseen his requirement months 
ago and had ordered twenty such craft. 6 Only half as deep as 
the first Monitor, yet having the same invulnerability and 
striking power, these craft had been designed to ferret out 
enemy ironclads and destroy them on their stocks. Ericsson 
had approved their plans, and Chief Engineer Alban C. 
Stimers had been placed in charge of the project. Unfortu- 
nately, Stimers had tried to incorporate in the new models 
too many good suggestions which added weight to the 
finished product, and disastrously as it turned outhe failed 
to check a young assistant's mathematical calculations for 
buoyancy. In consequence, when the first ship of the class 
was launched at Boston, it nearly sank. It was impossible 
without swamping the miserable craft to load on board its 
guns, shells, ammunition, and fuel. Lincoln's Navy Depart- 
ment salvaged as best they could, by stripping off armor and 
converting the bad lot into expensive and not very useful 
torpedo boats. This fiasco in naval construction deprived 
Farragut of the specialized force that had been intended for 

In his extremity, Farragut, in January 1864, applied to 
Porter on the Mississippi for the loan of two monitors. "If I 
had them, I should not hesitate to become the assailant instead 
of awaiting the attack. I must have ironclads enough to lie 
in the bay to hold the gunboats and rams in check in the 
shoal water." 7 And at the same time he appealed again to 

Mobile Bay 261 

Secretary Welles urging that with a single ironclad and the 
cooperation of five thousand troops to isolate the forts, he 
could destroy all of Buchanan's forces afloat. The threats of 
Confederate propagandists that Old Buck would not only 
sink Farragut and raise the siege of Mobile Bay but also 
sail on to liberate New Orleans served to keep the occupied 
city in a state of alarm. "If the Department could get one or 
two of the ironclads down here it would put an end to this 
state of things and restore confidence to the people of the 
ports now in our possession." 8 Welles responded by ear- 
marking for Farragut two single-turret monitors built in 
New York (the Tecumseh and the Manhattan) and two twin- 
turret river monitors (the Chickasaw and the Winnebago) in 
St. Louis. These vessels, although already launched, would 
require four or five months to finish and another month for 
towing and repairing en route to Farragut off Mobile. 

From January to July, 1864, Farragut waited for the moni- 
tors. As a diversion in favor of General W. T. Sherman's opera- 
tions in central Mississippi, he bombarded Fort Powell for 
two weeks. Because of shallowness of the water he could barely 
bring his mortar schooners within the extreme range of 
three miles of his target, and then, recoiling under the vertical 
firing, their hulls were driven a foot deep into the bottom 
mud. Once upon returning from an inspection trip to the 
coast of Texas, Farragut found only two small vessels off 
Mobile. Where were the other eleven of the thirteen ships 
assigned to this station? Two or three at a time might expect 
to be absent for repairs or coal at Pensacola Navy Yard, but 
Farragut now learned that his blockade captains had become 
so interested in prize money that they were taking time off 
from their stations to convoy all the way to the admiralty 
court in Key West the numerous petty cotton schooners 
captured while trying to run the blockade. "There appears 
to be no consideration for anything but capturing blockade 
runners," rasped Farragut in reprimanding the senior officer 
off Mobile, "totally ignoring the fact that the great object of 
the Government is to prevent the egress of the ironclads and 


other gunboats The capturing of the blockade-runners, 

although important as crippling the enemy in the sinews of 
war, is nevertheless of little consideration as compared with 
the close blockade of the port to prevent ingress and egress 
of vessels of war." 9 

Operations at Mobile suffered, one is driven to believe, 
because Farragut was no politician. He needed a few ironclads 
and a few thousand troops. Certainly, in the important busi- 
ness of persuading Washington to give him the necessary 
forces, he could not in the spring of 1864 hold a candle beside 
such officer-politicians as Admiral Porter on the Red River or 
Admiral Dahlgren in Charleston Harbor. Farragut was 
treated like a commander on a foreign station whose needs 
were less than urgent. Secretary Welles respected him as a 
modest, forthright, and daring officer who could be depended 
on to carry through a difficult campaign. But he answered 
Farragut's persistent pleas with temporizing and delay. To 
detach a few ironclads from Porter and Dahlgren was a 
thought that apparently did not occur to Mr. Welles. It 
might have had Farragut's relations with that influential 
dynamo Gustavus Fox been as chummy as Porter's, or if Far- 
ragut's acquaintance with Mr. Lincoln had been as personal 
and intimate as Dahlgren's. 

Farragut's chances of obtaining military support improved 
in the spring of 1864 when Grant took over from Halleck the 
general direction of the Federal armies. The new general-in- 
chief's first act was to remove General Banks from command 
of armies in the field. Since Lincoln refused to recall Banks 
from the Department of the Gulf, Grant had to make shift 
by creating the so-called Military Division of West Missis- 
sippi for General E. R. S. Canby, leaving Banks his former 
title and vague administrative duties in New Orleans. In effect 
Grant regarded Canby's post as a sort of receivership charged 
with salvaging Banks's scattered and (after Red River) dis- 
pirited army. Grant, moveover, insisted upon considering 
Texas and the entire area west of the Mississippi River from 

Mobile Bay 263 

a military point of view, and applied a policy of retrench- 
ment in the West and concentration upon military theaters in 
the East. Grant's recall of outlying garrisons like that at 
Matagorda, Texas, disturbed those Unionists who, having 
disclosed their loyalty during the Federal occupation, were 
now thrust back among hostile Confederate neighbors, but 
Grant elected to consider only the cold military facts of his 

In General Ganby, Farragut found a willing and business- 
like collaborator. Canby planned to move upon Mobile in 
July when Farragut's ironclads would arrive. And there 
was sound military reason for him to hold to his plan. Not 
only was Mobile itself a vital objective. The attack on Mobile 
would create a diversion in support of General W. T. Sher- 
man's campaign against Atlanta. 

Early in July, however, Grant transferred the bulk of 
Canby's army to Virginia to replace heavy losses in the Army 
of the Potomac. The reduction of Canby's force canceled any 
formal, full-scale military campaign against the city of 
Mobile, but both Canby and Farragut were willing to limit 
the military objective to the forts in the lower bay. As finally 
agreed, Farragut would run past the forts into the lower bay 
and deal with Buchanan's fleet, while a small detachment 
under Brigadier General Gordon Granger would land on the 
beaches to close the back doors of Forts Morgan and Gaines, 
cutting their communications with Mobile and rendering 
secure Farragut's communications with the outside across 
Dauphin Island and Federal Point. 

Since May, the ironclad Tennessee had been maneuvering 
in the lower bay with the gunboats Selma y Gaines, and 
Morgan. Farragut, reconnoitering on board a small warship, 
descried Buchanan's blue flag. From Fort Gaines on Dauphin 
Island three rows of pilings extended eastward across the 
shallows toward the main channel. In the channel itself a red 
buoy about a mile west of Fort Morgan marked the eastern 
end of a mine field, in which almost daily a Confederate ves- 


sel could be seen planting "torpedoes." Farragut's ships 
would have to sail to the eastward of this buoy in a channel 
directly under Fort Morgan, the enemy's strongest fort. 

Farragut planned to enter the harbor on a full tide, wooden 
ships leashed in pairs so that a crippled ship could be assisted 
by its yokemate and drifted in on the tide. Smaller gunboats 
were leashed to port sides of battleships to shield them from 
the fire of Fort Morgan. To starboard and ahead of the 
double column, the ironclad monitors would advance in 
single file to draw the fire of the fort away from the wooden- 
walled ships. Inside the harbor the monitors would deal 
with the Tennessee, light gunboats would run down enemy 
gunboats, wooden battleships would use their heavy guns to 
support the army against the forts and, if necessary, would 
ram the Tennessee. 

His long-awaited monitors reached Farragut by the end of 
July, after repairing at New Orleans and Pensacola and after 
laborious towing. The Tecumseh, under Captain T. A. M. 
Craven, the last to arrive, was forced to remain an extra 
forty-eight hours in the navy yard at Pensacola. Her tardiness 
chagrined Farragut, for the army contingent under General 
Granger had arrived on schedule and proceeded on August 3 
to land on Dauphin Island behind Fort Gaines. Had not 
Craven been a personal friend and scheduled to lead the line 
of monitors, the impetuous admiral would doubtless have 
launched his attack without the Tecumseh. The delayed 
monitor, towed by the battleship Richmond, arrived off 
Mobile Bay a few hours before the battle. 

Farragut's line-up in the fog before daybreak on August 5, 
1864, was as follows: 10 

I, Monitor Division 

Tecumseh, single-turret, Captain Tunis A. M. Craven 
Manhattan, single-turret, Commander J. W. A. Nicholson 
WinnebagOy twin-turret, Commander T. H. Stevens 
Chickasaw, twin-turret, Lieutenant Commander George H. 

Mobile Bay 265 

II. Wooden Ship Division 

Brooklyn, Captain James Alden 

Octorara, Lieutenant Commander C. H. Greene 
Hartford, flagship, Captain Percival Drayton 

Metacomet, Lieutenant Commander James E. Jouett 
Richmond, Captain T. A. Jenkins 

Port Royal, Lieutenant Commander B. Gherardi 
Lackawanna, Captain J. B. Marchand 

Seminole, Commander E. Donaldson 
Monongahela, Commander James H. Strong 

KennebeCj Lieutenant Commander W. P. McCann 
Ossipee, Commander W. E. LeRoy 

Itasca, Lieutenant Commander George Brown 
Oneida, Lieutenant C. L. Huntington 

Galena, Lieutenant Commander C. H. Wells 

The fog cleared and the ships got under way by 5:45 A.M. 
They were well prepared. Farragut had given orders to 
remove all unnecessary gear from decks and masts, Chains 
had been hung over the sides, and vital parts of the ships had 
been made snug with sandbags and sacks of coal and ashes. 
At the Pensacola yard, where Farragut had developed a 
modest metal-working shop, boiler iron had been bent around 
the stems of several of his heavy ships to render them more 
effective as rams. 

In placing the Brooklyn and the Octorara at the head of the 
double column of ships, Farragut had yielded, on advice of 
his captains, the position of greatest danger which, as an 
old-fashioned sea dog, he considered a perquisite of his rank. 
The Brooklyn, his captains insisted, had four guns in the bow 
which would be useful during those long minutes when the 
ships would be head on toward the enemy and unable to use 
their broadside guns. Farragut, missing the lead position, 
climbed into the port main rigging of the Hartford to get a 
better view. Captain Drayton, remembering the slight touches 
of gout and vertigo from which the sixty-three-year-old admiral 
suffered, sent Quartermaster Knowles up the ratlines to pass 
a small rope around the admiral to steady him. 


At 6:47 A.M. the Tecumseh, the leading monitor, touched 
off a challenging shot toward Fort Morgan, and at 7:06 
Morgan replied. Quickly now puffs of smoke and the blasting 
roars of battle arose from the fort, the shore batteries outside 
the fort, and the decks of ships. On swept the file of wooden 
ships, harnessed two and two. They overhauled the slower 
monitors. Although cruising under low steam pressure to 
minimize possible damage from exploding boilers, they were 
borne forward with speed by the flood tide. The Brooklyn 
and the Octoram led the line, with Farragut's Hartford and 
Metacomet immediately following. 

As the Tecumseh reached the area of gravest danger be- 
tween Fort Morgan and the minefield, she sighted in the bay 
ahead the C.S. ironclad ram Tennessee and the gunboats 
Selma, Gaines, and Morgan moving out from behind Federal 
Point. Captain Craven, eager to close with the Tennessee as 
quickly as possible, shifted the Tecumseh* $ course toward the 
Confederate terror. The new course carried him across a 
corner of the minefield, to the left of the red marker buoy. 
The Tecumseh ran onto a torpedo. 

"After you, pilot," Captain Craven stood aside to allow 
Pilot John Collins to go first up the ladder, and in a matter 
of moments the Tecumseh sank. 11 

Collins stepped up and out into the water, the ship falling 
away beneath him. Twenty-one other sailors scrambled from 
the stricken ironclad's hatches during these precious seconds 
before she turned turtle and sank, carrying to the bottom 
her courteous skipper and ninety-two other officers and crew- 

When the Tecumseh went down, the Brooklyn, under 
Captain James Alden, had just hauled up behind the moni- 
tors and had come under hot fire from the fort. The Brook- 
lyn's lookout at this crucial juncture reported shoal water. 
The vessel was hugging the shore under Fort Morgan, and, 
as the smoke cleared up a little, Captain Alden saw "a row of 
suspicious looking buoys . . . directly under our bows/' 12 He 
gave the order to back up and clear these obstructions. 

Mobile Bay 267 

Farragut, on the next ship in the line, instantly perceived 
the danger of his own ship and the vessels following him awk- 
wardly crowding in confusion behind the pair of stalled 
leaders, inside the critical shell-splashed arena between fort 
and torpedo field. Captain Drayton's position was on the 
Hartford's deck beneath the admirars perch in the rigging. 
Captain Jouett, of the side-wheeler Metacomet, was standing 
on his vessel's starboard paddlebox under, and within earshot 
of, the Admiral. "Oh God/' Farragut whispered, "shall I go 
on?" And it seemed to him that an inner voice commanded: 
"Go on!" Farragut's hail was answered from the Brooklyn 
with a warning of torpedoes ahead. 

"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells! Captain Drayton, go 
ahead! Jouett, full speed!" 13 

Jouett reversed the Metacomefs paddlewheel. The Hart- 
ford and the Metacomet, hausers straining and sidewalls 
chafing, waltzed about sharply to port, sailed past the Brook- 
lyn and the Octorara, and directly ahead across the minefield. 
As they came to the spot where the Tecumseh had disap- 
peared, Farragut had Jouett drop a boat to pick up survivors. 
At the same time, on the parapets of Fort Morgan, Confeder- 
ate General Richard L. Page a one-time shipmate of Far- 
ragut's ordered his gunners not to fire on the lifeboat. 

"I steamed through between the buoys where the tor- 
pedoes were supposed to have been sunk," Farragut reported 
to Welles. "These buoys had been previously examined by 
my flag lieutenant J. Crittenden Watson, in several nightly 
reconnaissances. Though he had not been able to discover 
the sunken torpedoes, yet we had been assured by refugees, 
deserters, and others of their existence, but believing that 
from their having been some time in the water, they were 
probably innocuous, I determined to take the chance of their 
explosion." 14 

From the moment of the Hartford's turn to the left, she 
was able to deal heavy blows from her starboard broadside. 
The Brooklyn and the Octorara, righting themselves, fell 
into Farragut's wake and the remainder of the line followed 


through in good order. The Confederate ram Tennessee at 
7:50 lunged toward the Hartford, missed, and merely ex- 
changed a broadside before the flagship ran clear of its path. 
The Confederate gunboats Selma, Gaines, and Morgan, more 
maneuverable than their iron consort, were able during Far- 
ragut's approach to cross his T and send a number of raking 
shots down the length of his deck. But the stingers of these 
nimble wasps were soon drawn. At 8:02 Farragut cast off the 
Metacomet. Jouett churned water in pursuit of the Selma, 
and, having shallow draft, was able to follow his prey into 
shoal water and capture her. Later ships were not so prompt 
as the flagship in cutting loose their gunboat consorts, so that 
the Morgan and the Gaines escaped to the protection of Fort 
Morgan. Here the Gaines, heavily injured by the fire of the 
fleet, was destroyed, but the gunboat Morgan after nightfall 
outran Farragut's cruisers and made her way up the bay to 
the city of Mobile. 

All of Farragut's wooden ships succeeded in running the 
gantlet and anchored with the flagship four miles above the 
forts. They were at breakfast, and had scarcely begun to 
think of how they would deal with the Tennessee when they 
saw that vessel pouring black smoke and driving up the bay 
toward their anchorage. Old Buck had decided to settle the 
issue promptly. 

On each ship was an army signalman for communicating 
with General Granger's force on shore. Farragut now used 
military personnel, they being quicker than navy flag signals, 
to order his ships to attack the oncoming Tennessee, both by 
gunfire and ramming, bows on at full speed. This time Far- 
ragut chose as his personal vantage point the main rigging 
near the top, and again a protective rope was passed around 

The Monongahela, under Commander Strong, twice 
crushed her nose against the shell of the great iron turtle. 
Without inflicting any apparent damage to the Tennessee, 
she tore away her own boiler-iron prow and sprung or shat- 
tered the butt ends of her planking on both bows. 

Mobile Bay 269 

The Lackawanna, under Captain Marchand, making good 
speed, struck the ram a heavy right-angle blow at the after 
end of the casemate. As both ships recoiled from the impact, 
several of the Tennessee's crew thrust their heads through her 
ports and used "opprobrious language," provoking the Lacka- 
wanna's marines to drive them back inside with a rain of 
holystones and spittoons. 

The Hartford, under Captain Drayton, was the third vessel 
to ram. Unable to slip the anchor cable because of a jammed 
shackle pin, Captain Drayton had quickly hauled it clear of 
the water, and, without taking the time to "cat and fish" it 
on board, had sailed head on toward an enemy who was also 
making directly for the Hartford. Had the two flagships col- 
lided bows on, it is possible that Buchanan's ironclad might 
have thrust itself so deeply into the vitals of Farragut's wooden 
ship as to sink it and be herself swamped by her victim. At the 
last minute Buchanan swerved to one side and the two ships 
scraped each other. As they ground past, the Hartford's 
broadside of nine-inch solid shot bounded off the slanted, 
greased casemate not more than eight feet away. Because of 
injuries to guns and port shutters, the Tennessee had but two 
serviceable guns in broadside, and these tore through the 
Hartford's berth and spar decks and even into the hold where 
her wounded were. The long Lackawanna misjudged the 
quickly shifting positions and, in heading back for another 
blow at the enemy, crashed into the Hartford, forward of the 
mizzen. Farragut scurried down from his perch in a minute 
and over the side to see what damage he had suffered. Cut 
down to within two feet of the water line, he ordered another 
run against the ram. But at this moment the Tennessee 
struck her colors and raised the white flag. The Ossipee, under 
Commander Le Roy, having too much headway, backed 
engines but could not avoid giving a glancing blow to the 
stricken vessel. 

Admiral Buchanan, wounded in the leg, sent his sword to the 
flagship in token of surrender. Farragut, with permission from 
General Page in Fort Morgan, dispatched all the wounded, 


both Union and Confederate, to Pensacola and buried his 
dead on shore. Heavier than in any of his previous battles, 
Farragut's losses totaled 150 killed and 132 wounded. Of 
these 93 had been drowned in the Tecumseh. 15 

Fort Powell, the shellbank fort at the entrance to Missis- 
sippi Sound, was blown up by her own men the night after 
the battle, her garrison escaping to the mainland. Two days 
later, after being shelled by the monitor Chickasaw and 
hemmed in by General Granger, Fort Gaines on Dauphin 
Island surrendered. General Granger next shifted his few 
troops to Federal Point, where following a fortnight of 
bombardment and siege, Fort Morgan also capitulated. 

News of Farragut's victory reached the North via the 
Richmond Sentinel. General Butler at Bermuda Hundred, 
Virginia, first spotted the news in a Richmond paper ex- 
changed by troops at the front. Alone in his tent Butler 
voiced three cheers for Farragut and telegraphed the clipping 
to Mr. Lincoln. 16 When Mr. Welles a day later carried official 
navy news to the White House, he was disappointed that the 
President did not again throw his hat into the air as after 
Vicksburg. "News of Farragut's having passed Forts Morgan 
and Gaines was received last night," reads the entry in Uncle 
Gideon's diary, "and sent a thrill of joy through all true 
hearts. It is not, however, appreciated as it should be by the 
military. The President, I was sorry, spoke of it as important 
because it would tend to relieve Sherman. This is the narrow 
view of General Halleck, whom I tried to induce to make a 
joint demonstration against Mobile one year ago. He has 
done nothing new and only speaks of the naval achievement 

as a step for the army 1 regret that from constant daily 

intercourse he should be able to imbue the President at times 
with false and erroneous notions/' 17 

Once military operations had been started at Mobile Bay, 
they were continued, even though operating only on a shoe- 
string. All blockade-running activities, of course, had been 
completely eliminated. The city of Mobile itself held out 
grimly until after Appomattox. 


War on the High Seas 

agement with him a fetish, he prided himself on the smooth 
running of his establishment in contrast with the War De- 
partment or the Department of State. 

In no phase of its diversified activity, however, was Lin- 
coln's Navy so bewildered, so torn between conflicting objec- 
tives, so harassed by other departments and so plagued by 
angry outcries of public opinion as in its conduct of the war 
on the high seas. Confederate commerce raiders threatened 
the Navy Department's basic concept of attrition warfare 
through steady, unremitting pressure of the starvation block- 
ade. Time and again the "Rebel-pirates/* as Mr. Welles 
called the Confederate commerce raiders, would appear off 
Boston, Sandy Hook, or the Virginia capes to burn and sink 
Yankee merchantmen. Commerce destruction was often sec- 
ondary in the minds of these raiders. Uppermost was their 
dream of scattering Yankee blockaders in pursuit of the de- 
stroyer. Since the Confederate States had no navy to dispute 
Lincoln's command of the sea, their object was by shock, by 
ruthless blows to the pocketbook, to force the Northern mer- 
chant to bring pressure upon his government to divert block- 
ade vessels to the chase and relax the jugular-vein grip of the 

In this psychological tussle, the Confederate "sea pirates" 
were pitted against the tough and stubborn will of a Puritan 
giant. "Uncle Gideon" was not insensitive to public opinion. 



But whenever the best interests of the country as Welles 
understood these demanded that the Navy Department take 
a beating in the public press rather than bend before the 
breeze, Secretary Welles suffered that beating in dignified 
silence, and let off steam in his diary. Gideon Welles's fixed 
idea was that the essential work of his department was main- 
tenance of the blockade. Against this fixed idea, Confederate 
cruiser warfare was destined to spend itself in vain. 

Among the merchant vessels seized and converted into war- 
ships by the Confederate Government in the early days of 
the war, the Sumter and the Nashville were the first to win 
fame as commerce raiders. 

For a month the C.S.S. Sumter^ under Captain Raphael 
Semmes, played cat and mouse with the Federal blockaders 
off the Pass a L J Outre entrance to the Mississippi. Then, on 
June 30, 1861, while the watchdog was momentarily yelping 
after a blockade-runner, the Sumter put to sea. 1 The embar- 
rassed Federal captain of the battleship Brooklyn, not a dozen 
miles off, dropped his less important prey, but after a short 
chase was outdistanced by the smaller and speedier Sumter. 

This first Confederate wolf to escape into the open sea 
made a rich haul among the unsuspecting Yankee sheep in 
Gulf coast commerce. Into the south Cuban port of Cien- 
fuegos, Semmes brought seven prizes. He might have de- 
stroyed them on the high seas, he explained to the officials, 
but part of their cargo was owned by Spaniards. Would not 
the Spanish captain general permit him to sell his prizes 
here? In groping for a decision through the devious intricacies 
of belligerent and neutral rights, the Spaniard might have 
acceded to Semmes's request had it not been for the vigorous 
representations of the United States consul. Semmes's prizes 
were released to the American consul and restored to their 
owners. Another fat Yankee merchantman, the Abby Brad- 
ford of New York, Semmes sent under a prize crew to New 
Orleans. Recaptured by Lincolnite blockaders, she never 
reached her Rebel destination. 

Denied the usual rewards of naval prize by Federal diplo- 

War on the High Seas 

matic intervention and Federal command of the sea, Semmes 
henceforth removed their passengers and crews and put cap- 
tured vessels to the torch. When his own ship, a 5Oi-ton former 
passenger packet, became over crowded, he disembarked 
prisoners in an out-of-the-way West Indian port or else con- 
verted a suitable prize vessel into a cartel ship. Usually he 
placed such a ship under ransom bond, the ransom money to 
be paid six months after the Confederate States obtained 
independence. Food and general stores he took from his 
victims, weather and sea permitting. Semmes captured the 
provision ship Daniel Troubridge of New Haven at a time 
when his own beef had soured and his bread had filled with 
weevils. His crew spent a busy day throwing overboard Con- 
necticut woodenware and carrying her stores of pork, beef, 
hams, flour, bread, and crackers in boats across to the Sumter, 
along with a plentiful supply of live pigs, sheep, and geese. 

As for coal, the Sumter had no access to a coaling base in 
the Confederate States and was essentially a ship without a 
country, dependent upon foreign charity for her essential 
life-giving motive power. Fortunately for Semmes the ports 
he visited were under colonial officials of countries generally 
hostile toward the United States and predisposed to favor the 
Confederacy. "A belligerent ship of war cannot increase her 
armament or her crew in a neutral port, nor supply herself 
with ammunition/' argued Semmes before the colonial offi- 
cials; "but with these exceptions she may procure whatever 
supply she needs." 2 Against Semmes, the United States agents 
tried to buy up all the coal in the port, to charter all the 
lighters by which coal could be conveyed on board, or to 
bribe coal handlers to swamp the loaded lighters in the 
harbor. But in spite of these* devices the Sumter, in each case 
after considerable sea-lawyering on the part of her captain, 
was allowed to take on coal at Cienfuegos, Curacao, Trinidad, 
Paramaribo, Maranham, and Martinique. 

In all, the Sumter captured eighteen merchantmen out of 
ports from Philadelphia to Maine. Of these, seven were re- 
leased to their owners by the captain general of Cuba, two 


were recaptured from prize crews, two were released on 
ransom bond as cartel ships, seven were burned. 

News of the "Rebel pirate's" depredations precipitated 
upon Lincoln and his Navy Department frantic appeals from 
insurance company officials, merchants, mayors of coastal 
cities, and governors. Welles weathered the storm with such 
a degree of serenity that newspapers dubbed him "the Rip 
Van Winkle of the Navy Department," and demanded that 
Lincoln dismiss him and appoint a more active Secretary. 
Welles's answer to the Sumter was primarily to tighten the 
blockade. He rebuked Captain Poor of the Brooklyn for 
allowing the Sumter to escape through the blockade, sent a 
few ships to various cross roads of traffic both in Europe and 
in the West Indies, and allowed a few blockaders, while en 
route north for repairs, to make short cruises in search of the 
marauder. Lieutenant David D. Porter in the Powhatan, 
picking up a hot scent, chased the Sumter as far as the coast 
of Brazil. In Martinique one of Welles's cruisers, the Iro- 
quoiSj under Commander James S. Palmer, surprised the 
Sumter and kept her under surveillance for a week before 
the Rebel slipped out one black night through an unguarded 

Crossing the Atlantic, the Sumter procured in Cadiz a few 
essential dockyard repairs, then, after capturing two Ameri- 
can prizes, she put into Gibraltar. Englishmen in Gibraltar 
were at this moment so highly incensed over the Trent case 
that Semines hoped to be allowed to make a complete over- 
haul in an English dockyard. But in this he was frustrated. 
His boilers broke down so completely that he could not risk 
leaving Gibraltar, and there were no repair facilities here. 
Then he was hemmed in by the three Federal ships the 
Kearsargej the Tuscarora., and the Zno which had been as- 
signed to this strategic intersection. 3 When to these misfor- 
tunes was added Yankee tampering with his crew to persuade 
them to desert whenever he allowed them to go ashore, 
Semmes abandoned the Sumter and was shortly given com- 
mand of the Alabama. The first Confederate commerce 

War on the High Seas 

raider, hots de combat and manned by a few caretakers, con- 
tinued for several months to be blockaded in Gibraltar. 
Eventually she was sold at auction to a Liverpool dealer who 
converted her into a blockade-runner. 

The Nashville, the South's second high-seas raider, was a 
fast coastal side-wheeler whose unbraced weather deck could 
support only two midget brass twelve-pounders. Her single 
cruise as a raider, to Europe and back, was made over un- 
familiar routes to avoid capture. This timid Rebel encount- 
ered no Yankee naval ship and captured only two merchant- 
men. But the fact that with her great speed she was able to 
run the blockade at will gained very unfavorable publicity 
for Mr. Lincoln's Navy. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 
printed a cartoon depicting Sinbad Lincoln wading down 
the blockade coast, bearing on his shoulders Gideon Welles as 
"the Old Man of the Sea/' * Significantly in the offing was 
a sketch of the raider Nashville. Following the Nashville's 
run through the blockade to Beaufort, a comic artist for 
Harper's Weekly drew the hirsute Secretary reclining on 
rocks labeled WASHINGTON and BEAUFORT, reading from a 
paper a fortnight old: " 'The Rebel Steamer Nashville run 
the Blockade at Beaufort on Thursday last.* Well, I declare! 
This is too bad! Really, if George doesn't send me the New 
York Papers more regularly. 111 have to subscribe for them 
myself/' 5 Beneath the secretary's knees, the cartoonist showed 
the Nashville sliding through the strait, while between his 
carpet slippers a spider wove a peaceful web. 6 

At the height of her fame in the spring of 1862, the Con- 
federate Government diverted the speedy Nashville from 
cruiser service into running essential contraband materials 
through the blockade. Eight vessels of Lincoln's Navy were 
at one time expressly detailed to capture her and, according 
to the Richmond Enquirer, a reward of two hundred thou- 
sand dollars was offered for her capture. 7 Eventually, as here- 
tofore noted, she was destroyed in the Ogeechee River by the 
monitor Montaukto the delight of Mr. Welles who had been 
lampooned on her account. 


The second and most important phase of Confederate com- 
merce raiding operations of the British-built Florida and 
A labama was initiated by Secret Agent James Dunwody Bui- 
loch. None of Bulloch's acts was ever really secret. When he 
landed in England, he was shocked to find that his mission 
had been fully exposed in the newspapers, and later, when- 
ever he made a move, he found that American consuls and 
Minister Charles Francis Adams were fully informed and 
able to protest to the British Government in advance of his 
acts. Bulloch, engaging a lawyer to locate loopholes in British 
neutrality law, let contracts for building the two famed 
cruisers. The contract for the Florida he gave to W. C. Miller 
and Sons, Liverpool. The senior partner of this company, a 
former naval constructor in the Royal Navy, owned a scale 
drawing of a British gunboat which was used for the Florida.* 
The contract for the Alabama was let to the Lairds of Birken- 
head Ironworks. In his dealings with the shipwrights Bulloch 
avoided all mention of the purpose to which the vessels 
would be put. The senior Laird, as a member of Parliament, 
might have been embarrassed otherwise. 

American consuls and Minister Adams, however, some- 
what heatedly pointed out that Bulloch's bankers, Fraser, 
Trenhold and Company, were well-known Confederate agents 
and that the vessels under construction, while not actually 
fitted with guns, had portholes and deck bolts for securing 
gun carriages. To these diplomatic objections, Bulloch, 
prompted by his advocate, could truthfully rejoin that the 
mere building of a ship (whatever its purpose) was no offense 
against British law, that only arming and equipping were for- 
bidden. As soon as he could get the ships to sea, Bulloch hur- 
ried the Florida to the Bahamas, the Alabama to the Azores, 
there to fall in with peaceful merchantmen bearing their 
armament, ammunition, and crews. So long as he installed 
guns, loaded ammunition, and shipped his seamen outside 
of English waters, Bulloch trusted that he was safe. Bulloch 
was not too scrupulous as to method, but was a bold, brash 
manipulator who conceived it as his patriotic duty to get the 

War on the High Seas 

ships and did so. He took pride in the fact that there was 
nothing to compromise the pacific character of his vessels 
when they left their cradles; despite the fact that hammock 
nettings, gun ports, and general appearance indicated their 
ultimate purpose. 9 Registered as English ships, in the names 
of Englishmen, commanded by Englishmen, bearing regular 
official numbers, their tonnage marked upon the combings 
of their main hatches as directed by the Board of Trade, they 
had been made perfectly secure against capture in this early 
stage before they were armed. Lest Minister Adams's protests 
might succeed in stopping the Alabama in spite of all his 
precautions, Bulloch arranged a party on board the spanking 
new craft and a trial spin in the Mersey. A few hours later the 
ladies and gentlemen were brought back to the dock in other 
boats, while the wily Alabama disappeared in the direction of 
the Azores and her colorful career on the high seas. 

By this time Gideon Welles had grudgingly detached several 
cruisers from the blockade and sent them prowling the sea 
lanes to and from such strategic traffic intersections as the 
English Channel, Gibraltar, Capetown, and Bahia, below the 
bulge of Brazil. When news arrived of the Alabama's first 
captures, Welles increased the number of search vessels, not 
by depleting the blockade but by chartering additional ves- 
sels, such as the fast liner Vanderbilt, from the merchant 

He also created a West India Squadron* If he could remove 
from the blockade squadrons the temptation to leave their 
monotonous beats for the carefree excitement of needle-in- 
the-haystack cruises, he might thereby tighten the blockade 
itself. Welles also required a suitable billet for the trouble- 
some Commodore Charles Wilkes, of Trent case fame. 
Wilkes's home was in Washington and, being an accomplished 
courtier, he had the ear of Lincoln and Seward. For months 
after the seizure of Mason and Slidell he had been assigned 
no duty; then Wilkes's James River Flotilla, organized to 
cooperate with McClellan, was left without a purpose when 
the Peninsula campaign was abandoned. Partly to give the 


headstrong and fidgety commodore something more fruitful 
to do than lecturing Lincoln and Seward on naval matters, 
Mr. Welles on September 8, 1862, organized the West India 
Squadron, and with Lincoln's blessing appointed Wilkes to 
command it. 

The new squadron with which Wilkes was to protect 
American shipping from the depredations of the British-built 
cruisers Alabama and Florida was a scratch lot. To three of 
the best of the river flotilla the Wachusett, flag, the Sonoma, 
and the TiogaMr. Welles added four of the least useful gun- 
boats from the blockade squadronsthe Dacotah, the Cimar- 
ron y the Octorara and the Santiago de Cuba. "While exercis- 
ing your rights as a belligerent/' Welles cautioned Wilkes, 
"you will respect the rights of neutrals, always avoiding to 
give unnecessary offense while asserting the authority and 
enforcing the duties of your command/' 10 As danger from 
the Alabama and the Florida was "pressing and imminent/' 
Wilkes was hurried to sea with less than half his ships. 

At Bermuda, which scarcely lay within his province, Wilkes 
became so infuriated with the British officials' want of 
courtesy toward himself that he engaged them in a protracted 
and acrimonious correspondence. His presence in the port 
with three United States ships one of whom always anchored 
outside "in the fairway" in readiness for a chase deterred a 
large number of blockade-runners from putting to sea. There 
was one tense moment when a British man-of-war swooped 
down to within half-pistol shot of Wilkes's flagship Wachusett 
and, like a challenging cock, glared for several minutes in 
drum-taut silence. Wilkes reported these affronts at length. 
When finally forced by shortage of coal to move on to his 
allotted cruising area, he began at once to bombard the 
Navy Department with pleas for more ships, a barrage that 
only ended eight months later with his recall. Gideon Welles 
had no intention of reinforcing Wilkes, was adamant about 
it, and soon became convinced that Wilkes was more inter- 
ested in collecting prize money through seizure of blockade- 

War on the High Seas 279 

runners than he was in concentrating upon catching raiders 
in the strategic traffic intersections of the West Indies. 

Meanwhile, Raphael Semmes of the Alabama was disturb- 
ing the country, and especially the Navy Department. "No- 
vember 4, Tuesday. Further news of the depredations of the 
Alabama" reads Welles's diary. "Ordered Dacotah, Ino, 
Augusta, etc., on her track." And a month later: "The Rebel 
steamer Alabama was at Martinique and escaped the San 
Jacinto" "December 29, Monday. We had yesterday a tele- 
gram that the British pirate craft Alabama captured the Ariel, 
one of the Aspinwall steamers, on her passage from New 
York to Aspinwall, off the coast of Cuba. Abuse of the Navy 
Department will follow." " Semmes had hoped to catch a 
homeward-bound California treasure ship to replenish his 
funds, since he could not sell prizes. The Ariel, however, was 
outward bound, and yielded a mere eight thousand dollars 
in U. S. Treasury notes and fifteen hundred dollars in silver. 
As there were seven hundred souls on the Ariel and it was 
impossible to crowd them on board the one-thousand-ton 
Alabama, Semmes disarmed the 150 marines on board, took 
their parole, and released the ship under ransom bond. 12 

After the Florida had run past the blockaders into Mobile 
Bay, the British humor magazine Punch had tossed off a 
limerick: 13 

There was an old fogy named Welles, 
Quite worthy of cap and of bells, 

For he tho't that a pirate, 

Who steamed at a great rate, 
Would wait to be riddled with shells. 

After completely outfitting herself at Mobile and signing 
on an all Southern crew, the Florida came out under cover 
of a January norther and, crowding on both sail and steam, 
outraced Farragufs blockaders. The Florida now prowled the 
sea lanes along the Antilles, while the Alabama notified 
through captured papers of General Banks's projected de- 
scent on Galveston swept westward to the Texas coast. 


Posing as a blockade-runner, Semmes lured away from the 
group of naval ships off Galveston the U.S.S. Hatteras, under 
Lieutenant Commander Homer C. Blake. Ten miles off 
shore the Hatteras hailed, "What steamer is that?" "Her 
Britannic Majesty's ship Vixen" 14 The Hatteras lowered a 
boat to board her when Semmes dropped the mask, identified 
his vessel as the Confederate steamer Alabama, and fired a 
broadside. The Federal, a side-wheel converted merchant- 
man of eleven hundred tons, answered the fire and attempted 
to close and board, but her bottom was foul with seaweed. 
The Rebel, having superior speed, kept clear of the Hatteras 
and shot her to pieces. With his walking beam shattered and 
his vessel on fire in two places, Commander Blake continued 
firing, hoping to disable the A labama and attract the attention 
of the fleet off Galveston. But at length his magazines had to 
be drowned and his port guns heaved overboard to keep 
afloat. Blake fired a gun to leeward in token of surrender. 
Semmes took off her survivors, and within ten minutes the 
Hatteras went down. 

Meanwhile, the Hatteras' small boat, which had been 
lowered before the action commenced, rowed back to the 
fleet. As the dread news rippled eastward and northward, it 
set up fresh tensions around the blockade coast. A flurry of 
commands fanned out from Gideon Welles's desk. "The 
Florida has escaped from Mobile, and the Alabama has 
destroyed the Hatteras off Galveston." 15 Pictures of the 
raiders were distributed, identical except that the Florida 
had two funnels and the Alabama but one. Welles even re- 
laxed his rule and drew a temporary reinforcement for Wilkes 
of three ships from Admiral S. P. Lee's inactive North Atlan- 
tic Blockading Squadron. The Vanderbilt was ordered to 
cruise off Brazil until her skipper obtained assurance that the 
Alabama had left the West Indies, then she was to proceed to 
the Cape of Good Hope, Helena, Cape Verde, the Canaries, 
Madeira, Lisbon, and the Azores. 

With speed both the Florida and the Alabama departed 
from the Gulf and Caribbean areas, making few captures and 

War on the High Seas 281 

steering wide around Federal ships in the main channels. 
Wilkes at this troubled period captured so many blockade- 
runners as to call attention to his want of success in seizing 
the raiders. He also made the blunder of detaining the Vander- 
bilt, commandeering her, in fact, for use as his flagship, the 
Wachusett being in need of repair. 

To Welles now came Seward complaining of Wilkes's ac- 
tion in Bermuda. Through the sluggish channels of diplo- 
macy the English had protested. Welles thought the British 
unduly fussy. Wilkes, he wrote in his diary, "has not com- 
mitted the indiscretions toward neutrals which I feared he 
would, and of which he is charged." 16 But when Welles 
learned that Wilkes had detained the Vanderbilt and that the 
Alabama had been sighted off Brazil about the time the 
Vanderbilt might have been there to intercept had his orders 
not been interfered with, he dispatched the colorless Admiral 
J. L. Lardner to replace Wilkes. 

Wilkes was set down in the Secretary's black book as 
"erratic, impulsive, opinionated/' and as having a disinclina- 
tion to obey orders that "do not comport with his own no- 
tions." "His special mission, in his present command, had 
been to capture the Alabama. In this he had totally failed, 
while zealous to catch blockade-runners and get prize money. 
Had he not been in the West Indies, we might have captured 
her, but he has seized the Vanderbilt , which had specific 
orders and destination and gone off with her prize-hunting, 
thereby defeating our plans." 17 

Both the Florida and the Alabama were now bound for 
distant and safer waters. But off Brazil the most brilliant 
daredevil cruise of the war was begun. The Florida put 
Lieutenant Charles W. Read on board a prize with twenty- 
four petty officers and men. "Savvy" Read, twenty-three, 
Naval Academy 1860, and a veteran of the New Orleans 
battle, mounted two boat howitzers on board the prize brig 
Clarence and sailed north. Off Cape Henry on June 12, by 
feigning distress, he got aboard of, and captured, the bark 
Tacony and two schooners. 18 As the Tacony was better suited 


to his purpose, he shifted his guns to her, burned the Clarence 
and the schooner M. A. Shindler, and shifted the latter's pas- 
sengers to the Kate Stewart, which he bonded as a cartel. 

As soon as the Kate Stewart touched the dock in Phila- 
delphia, the Tacony's dispossessed merchant skipper tele- 
graphed news of Read's fresh depredations to Washington. 
It was Saturday. Fox was Acting Secretary In Welles's absence 
over the week end. Over the Secretary's name identical orders 
went out to navy yards in Philadelphia, New York, and 
Boston to charter or seize half a dozen moderate-sized fast 
vessels, put on board of each a dozen men, plenty of small 
arms, and one or two howitzers, and send them out "in 
various directions . . . within the next forty-eight hours." 19 
Monday morning the economy-minded Welles smirked over 
Fox's extravagance, but allowed the order to stand as it had 
gone out in his name. Together with Admiral Lee's vessels, 
about two dozen ships in all were dispatched after the Tacony. 

During the next fortnight, while cruising north along the 
coast, Read burned or bonded nineteen sail, two of them 
being Atlantic passenger steamers: the Isaac Webb, from 
Liverpool to New York, with 750 passengers, and the Shate- 
muC; from Liverpool to Boston with immigrants. Off Boston 
on the night of June 54 he captured the fishing schooner 
Archer, and, to elude the gunboats now scouring the coast for 
him, he shifted his howitzers to the Archer and burned the 

Being short of ammunition, he entered Portland harbor, 
captured the revenue cutter Caleb Gushing, and was making 
off with her when the aroused citizens of Portland sallied out 
in two steamers to hem him in against the coast and capture 

The Alabama remained at sea a total of twenty-three 
months. After sinking the Hatteras, she proceeded to the 
coast of Brazil, the Cape of Good Hope^ the Straits of Sunda, 
the China Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. Then she doubled back 
to the Cape of Good Hope and Brazil, thence to the English 
Channel and Cherbourg, France. All told she burned fifty- 

War on the High Seas 283 

three merchantmen, released nine on ransom bond, sold one, 
and sank one man-of-war, the Hatteras By June 11, 1864, 
when she dropped her anchor in Cherbourg, she was me- 
chanically a tired ship, creaky from her seventy-five thousand 
miles by sail and steam, and in desperate need of a dockyard 
overhaul. Three days later, while Semmes was negotiating 
with the reluctant government of Napoleon III, the U.S.S. 
Kearsarge, under Captain John A. Winslow, appeared. The 
United States consul in Cherbourg and Minister Dayton in 
Paris, while interposing with the French foreign office to 
thwart Semmes's permission to refit, had also summoned the 
Kearsarge by a telegram to Flushing, Holland. Warily, lest 
the long-sought Rebel again give the Federals the slip, 
Winslow did not drop anchor, but, after feasting his eyes upon 
the Alabama from a distance, sailed back outside the harbor. 
He intended to be hampered by no twenty-four-hour rule in 
case Semmes should come out. During her two years in 
European waters away from the real war, the Kearsarge had 
been carefully groomed for combat. Chain cables had been 
hung up and down her sides to protect her engines, and these 
had been so well concealed by an outer layer of planking that 
Semmes and his officers, through their glasses, had been un- 
able to detect it. Winslow summoned other ships to come to 
his aid in case of a protracted blockade, but this proved 

Semmes, perhaps divining that the French at this late date 
would allow him nothing more than emergency fuel, resolved 
Winslow's doubts by a courteous, old-fashioned challenge to 
a duel. In the note, written to A. Bonfils for relay through 
the United States consul, Semmes informed Winslow "that 
my intention is to fight the Kearsarge as soon as I can make 
the necessary arrangements. I hope these will not detain me 
more than until tomorrow evening, or after the morrow 
morning at furthest. I beg she will not depart before I am 
ready to go out." 21 

"The combat will no doubt be contested and obstinate/' 
Semmes predicted in his journal, "but the two ships are so 


equally matched that I do not feel at liberty to decline it." 22 
Semmes placed his several dozen chronometers, specie, and 
ransom bonds, trophies of the chase, on board the English 
yacht Deerhound, took on coal, and entertained on board a 
party of ladies. 23 

About 9:30 A.M. on June 19, 1864, the Alabama steamed 
out of the harbor, accompanied by the Deerhound and the 
French cruiser Couronne. Sightseers with glasses lined the 
French shore. A party of ladies witnessed the fight from the 
Deerhound's deck. The Couronne stopped at the three-mile 
limit to make sure that neutral French waters would not be 

The Kearsarge moved out to sea six or seven miles beyond 
the breakwater, then rounded to and steamed toward the 
Alabama. At 11:10, the Alabama opened with a broadside at 
twelve hundred yards. Semraes evidently hoped to settle the 
fight with his long guns, but Winslow closed the range to 
nine hundred before opening the Kearsarge' s port broadside. 
The two ships now steamed in circles around a common 
center, firing their port guns. In statistics the antagonists 
were equally matched, each having the same tonnage and 
about the same power in guns. 

During the sixty minutes that the battle lasted, the Kear- 
sarge received a hundred-pound shell which lodged in her 
sternpost and failed to explode. The impact raised the tran- 
som frame and bound the rudder so hard as to require four 
men at the helm. Shell after shell splintered the Kearsarge's 
false sidewall, spent itself against the chain armor, and 
plopped harmlessly into the water. Semmes, perceiving their 
failure to penetrate the Kearsarge , now alternated shells with 
solid shot. After an hour of dueling, the entirely unpro- 
tected Alabama had large holes punched out along her water 
line. With his boilers extinguished, Semmes tried to make 
sail and escape to the French coast, some five miles distant, 
but his stricken ship began to settle, the muzzles of his guns 
to dip into the green water. Semmes hauled down his colors 

War on the High Seas 285 

and dispatched a boat to announce his surrender. In another 
twenty minutes the Alabama plunged to the bottom. 

The Deerhound, lying near, was now hailed by Captain 
Winslow and asked to assist in rescue of survivors. "For God's 
sake do what you can to save them." 25 Winslow's two sea- 
worthy boatsothers had been shot up garnered sixty-one 
prisoners. The Deerhound picked up Captain Semmes and 
forty-one others andto Winslow's astonishment hightailed 
it for the English coast, without surrendering to Winslow the 

The defeat of the British-built raider, with British guns 
and crewmen, by the Yankee-built Kearsarge, with Yankee 
cannon and Yankee seamen, was heart-warming to Gideon 
Welles. 26 But Semmes's escape left a sour aftertaste, for 
Welles in the last year of the war still clung to his initial 
theory that the South's almost legendary scourger of the seas 
was a common pirate. Lincoln, whose sense of humor some- 
times puzzled Mr. Welles, expressed a desire for the unex- 
ploded Rebel shell from the Kearsarge's sternpost and out it 
was cut, together with a sizeable chunk of the sternpost itself, 
the whole neatly packaged and forwarded to the White House 
as a souvenir of the chief battle fought by Mr. Lincoln's Navy 
on the high seas. 

Including six months in the dockyard at Brest, the Florida's 
active career lasted from January, 1863, when she escaped 
from Mobile, to October, 1864, when she was illegally cap- 
tured in the neutral harbor of Bahia, Brazil. During fifteen 
months of cruising, she destroyed thirty-three vessels, varying 
from fishing schooners worth only a few thousand up to the 
Jacob Bell,, a China trader loaded with silks, tea, and spices, 
and valued at $1,500,000. Four ships she bonded. If to these 
are added captures made by her brilliant junior officer, C. W. 
Read, in Glarence-Tacony-Archer, her grand total comes 
very near to the Alabama's, and her ending, certainly, was 
more spectacular. 

Entering Bahia on October 4, 1864, she discovered there 
the black-hulled U.S.S. Wachusett, waiting like a spider. 27 


Technically, by the rules governing belligerents in neutral 
ports, she was safe from violence within the harbor, and, 
when one belligerent vessel departed, the other was com- 
pelled to remain at anchor for twenty-four hours before fol- 
lowing her. The Florida's skipper, Captain C. M. Morris, 
C. S. N., felt sufficiently secure to withdraw the powder 
charges from his guns and to spend his nights on shore. But 
he reckoned without Commander Napoleon Collins of the 

The commander of Charles Wilkes's former flagship shared 
Wilkes's views on the efficacy of quarter-deck decisions, as 
well as Wilkes's contempt for the rights of those Latin Ameri- 
can neutrals who extended hospitality to Confederate raiders 
but lacked the military strength to protect them within their 
harbors. In Bahia there was one small Brazilian gunboat, 
behind which the Florida anchored, and a fort. The United 
States consul came on board the Wachusett with a tale of 
violation of Brazil's neutrality by the Alabama. Urged by the 
consul, Commander Collins decided to sink the Florida re- 
gardless of consequences. 

Accordingly, at 3:00 A.M. on the seventh, he slipped his 
cable and rammed the raider. The blow cut down her bul- 
warks and carried away mizzenmast and main yard, but left 
her hull uninjured. Small arms fire from the Florida was 
answered by two unauthorized cannon shot from the Wachu- 
sett, which flew wild but induced the Florida's junior officer 
on board to surrender. Collins now quickly towed the Florida 
out of the harbor, and was trailed a few miles by the Brazilian 
gunboat, which fired three shotted guns but missed her 

The first British-built raider to be captured, together with 
the brusqueness of her seizure, caused excitement in Wash- 
ington. Senator Sunnier, of the Foreign Affairs Committee, 
and Secretary of State Seward wanted to release her at once 
to the Brazilian Government. Welles staunchly demurred. 
"If we have injured Brazil, let us make reparation, full and 
ample/' Welles argued wryly. "If she has injured us, let her 

War on the High Seas 387 

do her duty also, in this respect. So far as her majesty is dis- 
turbed by our taking a sneaking thief, whom she was enter- 
taining, by the throat ... let all proper atonement be made." 28 
Welles suggested to Seward that the prisoners captured on the 
Florida be tried as pirates, but Seward shrank from that 

In Hampton Roads a transport ran into the Florida "by 
accident" and caused her to founder, but not before samples 
of her British cannon had been shipped to the Washington 
Navy Yard. The Florida's prisoners were lodged in Fort 
Warren in Boston, and, to appease the State Department, 
Commander Collins was courtmartialed and sentenced to be 
dismissed from the service a sentence which, diplomacy hav- 
ing been satisfied, Uncle Gideon quietly disapproved and set 

The direct losses inflicted upon the United States merchant 
marine by all the Confederate raiders amounted to about 244 
ships. 29 In money this approximated the $15,000,000 damages 
paid by Great Britain in the Alabama claims soon after the 
war. But such a sum does not cover the hundreds of ships that 
were laid up in port or shifted to foreign registry for fear of 
capture. Nor does it account for the transfer of American 
maritime trade to neutral bottoms. The virtual disappearance 
of the United States flag from merchant shipping on the high 
seas can be credited, first, to the failure of Lincoln's State 
Department to stop the release of British-built cruisers to 
Confederate agents and, second, to the fearful exigencies that 
made it so difficult for Lincoln's Navy either to pen these 
cruisers in port or to capture them. 


The Finish at Wilmington 


coln's Navy came nearer to failure than at any point on the 
entire three thousand miles of blockaded coast. After the fall 
of New Orleans, the Confederates heavily fortified this sea- 
port of Richmond. Closer to Richmond than either Charles- 
ton or Mobile, it was also nearest to all three of the most 
important blockade-running centers Halifax, Bermuda, and 
the Bahamas. After Charleston had been sealed by Dahlgren 
and Gillmore, and Mobile by Farragut and Canby, Wilming- 
ton became the only major Confederate port through which 
the armies fighting in Virginia could be supplied. Extraor- 
dinary means were taken to defend it. Vessels were espe- 
cially built to run the blockade at this point. The Eat, of 
Liverpool, for instance, was a sleek greyhound designed for 
speed 230 feet long, 26 feet beam, 9 feet deep. Outbound in 
her cigar-shaped hull, she could stow 850 bales of priceless 
cotton and, coming in, similar quantities of material es- 
sential to the Confederacy. Her two double-oscillating en- 
gines, generating 180 horsepower, drove her a phenomenal 
15 knots to enable her to run circles around the heavy block- 
ade ships with their cumbrous freight of naval cannon. Block- 
ade-runners held to such regular schedules into Wilmington 
that even British papers friendly to the North speculated as 
to whether Lincoln's blockade officers were corrupt and con- 
niving to prolong the war. During the last two months of 
greatly intensified activity against Wilmington, between 


The Finish at Wilmington 289 

October 26, 1864, and January 1865, the Confederates ob- 
tained through this port 8,632,000 pounds of meat, 1,506,000 
pounds of lead, 1,933,000 pounds of saltpetre, 546,000 pairs 
of shoes, 316,000 pairs of blankets, half a million pounds of 
coffee, 69,000 rifles, and 43 cannon, while cotton to pay for 
it was shipped out. 1 

On the map the situation at Wilmington resembled that 
at Mobile. The city lies on the Cape Fear River, about twenty- 
eight miles inland from its furthest entrance. Wilmington, 
but six miles from the ocean, is accessible from a number of 
inlets on both sides of the two mouths of the river. The two 
entrances into Cape Fear River are seven miles apart and 
separated not only by Smith's Island but by a shoal which 
extends for ten or twelve miles out into the Atlantic and 
renders Cape Fear one of the main hazards to traffic along the 
coast. Off each of the entrances there was an outer and an 
inner shoal. The southern entrance was protected by Fort 
Caswell on the mainland opposite Smith's Island, and the 
northern, called the New Inlet Channel, most frequently 
used by blockade-runners, was protected by a formidable 
series of log-and-sand fortifications built during the war and 
known collectively as Fort Fisher. 

On the lower tip of Federal Point, the Confederates built 
a mound of sand sixty-five feet high, upon which they placed 
two heavy British cannon to command the New Inlet Channel 
as it enters the lower river. Through the outside shoals this 
channel was frequently shifted about by storms and cur- 
rents, but generally it ran for some distance parallel to the flat, 
shrub-clad sand dunes of the coast. North of the Mound Bat- 
tery was erected a series of palmetto-log-and-sand bombproofs 
and traverses about one hundred yards back from the beach. 
These extended northward along the shoreline for a mile, 
then made a right-angle turn and continued westward across 
the peninsula to the river. The fort was shaped like a gigantic 
letter L Across its shorter land face, it was reinforced against 
infantry assault by a field of mines connected by wires to 
galvanic batteries within the fort and by a row of palisades 


to shield sharpshooters. Lengthy Fort Fisher, along with sev- 
eral smaller batteries further up the coast, afforded refuge and 
security to the speedy runners that raced past the blockaders. 2 
Even injured blockade-runners always tried to get through 
to beach themselves rather than be captured, as the fort's 
garrison had developed salvage to a fine art, a single cargo 
frequently being worth the price of the vessel itself. 

The activities of Lincoln's Navy Department against Wil- 
mington fell into three phases: (i) the period of indecision 
and reconnaissance under Admiral S. P. Lee, (2) the first 
expedition against Fort Fisher under General B. F. Butler 
and Admiral D. D. Porter, which turned into a fiasco through 
want of cooperation between the Army and Navy, and (3) the 
final successful assault of Fort Fisher by Porter and General 
A. H. Terry. 

The first commanders of the North Atlantic Blockading 
Squadron, Stringham and Goldsborough, failed to recognize 
the strategic importance of Wilmington. They could hardly 
otherwise have frittered away their amphibian expeditions 
against Hatteras Inlet and Roanoke Island when the same 
attack forces (in the early days before Fort Fisher was 
constructed) might have seized Wilmington. Admiral Sam 
Phillips Lee, who succeeded to the command of this squad- 
ron in September, 1862, and held it until October, 1864, was 
frank enough to admit that Wilmington was not being satis- 
factorily blockaded, and sufficiently astute to perceive that 
joint army and navy action to seize Wilmington was both 
necessary and essential. 

Lee, however, could not cut the Gordian knot. Priding 
himself on the prompt attention he gave to routine details, 
he was smothered by them. Merely handling the correspond- 
ence of a squadron of a hundred vessels was a time-consuming 
chore. This correspondence consisted of assignments of ves- 
sels, reassignments due to breakdowns, repairs, absences for 
refueling, provisioning; reports of blockade-runners chased, 
destroyed, captured; distribution of consular information on 

The Finish at Wilmington 291 

vessels to look out for; reports, endless reports, trivial and 
major, for the Secretary. 

To the routine of the blockade was added confusion over 
trading permits. After Lincoln lifted the blockade of Beau- 
fort, North Carolina, and organized loyal state governments 
in Virginia and North Carolina or rather in the thin slivers 
of tide-water coastline under Federal control a complex 
tangle of problems arose, involving issuance of trading per- 
mits by army officers, navy officers, Treasury officials, and the 
carpetbagger governors. S. P. Lee's blockade squadron was 
specifically charged with interdicting all traffic to and from 
enemy-held territory. Yankee merchantmen, posing as army 
sutlers, obtained clearances for the reopened port of Beau- 
fort, and then, when blockaders were not looking, sneaked 
into Rebel-held inlets near Wilmington to dispose of con- 
traband at fabulous prices. During several months before the 
interdepartmental confusion was clarified, Gideon Welles 
stood pat on enforcing the letter of his blockade even against 
the United States Army. A gunboat was actually anchored 
in the shadow of Fortress Monroe to prevent the Army from 
disembarking here the lumber, potatoes, onions, and tar they 
had purchased in Rebel-held territory. General Dix, enraged, 
appealed to the President against this blockade of his fort by 
a gunboat of Mr. Lincoln's own Navy, and the matter was 
finally straightened out. 

From the start, S. P. Lee realized that Wilmington could 
not be satisfactorily blockaded and would have to be cap- 
tured. Even with three cordons of blockaders outside of each 
entrance into Cape Fear River, Lee found it impossible to 
prevent vessels from going in or out. "It is greatly to our 
mortification, after all our watchfulness/' reported Captain 
B. F. Sands, Lee's senior officer off Cape Fear. "None can be 
more vigilant than we are the officer of the watch, with the 
quartermaster, always on the bridge, lookouts on each bow, 
gangway and quarter. For myself I never pretend to turn in 
at night, and am frequently on deck during the night inspect- 


ing the lookouts in person, taking what sleep I can get in my 
clothes, ready for a moment's call." 3 

Wilmington, however, could not be taken without the help 
of a cooperating army. Its entrances were shallow and tortu- 
ous, its channels shifting and, according to reports of intelli- 
gent contrabands and others, obstructed in such a way as to 
bring an intruder under cross fire from the forts. Admiral 
Lee needed an army to land on Federal Point between Fort 
Fisher and Wilmington, to besiege Fort Fisher in conjunc- 
tion with a naval attack. 

In December of 1862, when ironclads were being made 
ready for Du Font's attack on Charleston, there was a possi- 
bility of their stopping at Cape Fear long enough to enter 
the river and assail Fort Fisher from the rear, while the 
wooden fleet bombarded its sea face and an army under Gen- 
eral John G. Foster assaulted its land front. Lincoln, Welles, 
and Fox became quite excited about this plan, but the 
Monitor foundered off Hatteras and Admiral Lee's recon- 
noitering party found the bars at Cape Fear to be six inches 
too shallow to float the Passaic and the Montauk, so the pro- 
posal had to be given up. 

Lee now devised several other projects. He tried to induce 
General Foster to march directly on Wilmington from his 
position at New Berne in Pamlico Sound. Also, he suggested 
a military landing on Smith's Island and building a fort 
there across from Fort Caswell, but the Confederates gar- 
risoned the island first. It was S. P. Lee's misfortune always to 
know what could be done, but never to be quite able to do 
it Gideon Welles, after many months of fruitless effort to get 
Halleck to contribute a military force, finally authorized Lee 
to go ahead without an army, if he felt he could accomplish 
anything. 4 Lee sent numerous reconnaissance parties inside 
the channels at night. A small boat expedition under the 
daredevil Lieutenant William B. Gushing ascended the Cape 
Fear River to within a few miles o Wilmington, examining 
river obstructions, dodging enemy batteries, and even cap- 
turing a courier with dispatches from Fort Fisher. Had not 

The Finish at Wilmington 293 

the light-draft monitors proved to be failures, Lee might 
have sent these inside the river and captured Wilmington. 
But he never launched a purely naval attack, and was unsuc- 
cessful in his cogently reasoned pleas for military help. 

After Farragut's victory in Mobile Bay, when Fox ap- 
pealed to Lieutenant General Grant for military cooperation 
against Wilmington, Grant told him plainly that he would 
assign an army to the job provided the Navy would replace 
Lee with a more energetic naval commander. 

Welles shared Grant's opinion that Lee was not the man 
to make the necessary bold assault. "He is true and loyal, 
prudent and cautious. Farragut would take the place three 
times while Lee was preparing, and hesitating, and looking 
behind for more aid." 5 To make the shift as palatable as 
possible to Lee and his family S. P. Lee being a son-in-law 
of Welles's old friend F. P. Blair, Sr. and brother-in-law of 
Lincoln's postmaster general, Montgomery Blair Welles or- 
dered an exchange of places between Farragut and Lee. He 
had no sooner dispatched the order, however, when he re- 
ceived from Farragut an application for leave of absence. 
The aging admiral had experienced a letdown after Mobile 
Bay, was troubled by gout and vertigo, and wanted rest. 
Welles instantly canceled Farragut's new assignment "a life 
so precious must not be thrown away" and called David D. 
Porter to Washington for consultation. "Admiral Porter is 
probably the best man for the service, but his selection will 
cut Lee to the quick. Porter is young, and his rapid promo- 
tion has placed him in rank beyond those who were his 
seniors, some of whom it might be well to have in this ex- 
pedition. But again personal considerations must yield to 
the public interest." 5 The ebullient Porter, having lately 
escaped from the Red River with almost a whole skin, pre- 
ferred to remain on the Mississippi, but Porter Welles's 
diary notes "repeated what he has heretofore said that he 
had been treated kindly by the Department, and if I ordered 
him to go over Niagara Falls in an iron pot he should obey 
the order/' e With Grant's enthusiastic approval-Grant and 


Porter haying pulled in harness at Vicksburg Welles shifted 
Porter to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and 
forged ahead with the Wilmington plans, the shutting off of 
all Rebel communication there being regarded as "para- 
mount to all other questions, more important, practically, 
than the capture o Richmond." 7 

But if Wilmington was the main objective of the Navy, 
this was not true of the Army. Grant's chief preoccupations 
continued to be the Confederate army before Richmond and 
Sherman's situation at Atlanta. Wilmington, so far as the 
commitment of troops was concerned, remained a secondary 

When Grant first agreed to send troops to Wilmington, 
it was with the understanding that the object be kept secret. 
He would detail a force from Virginia to sail under sealed 
orders for Port Royal, South Carolina, between Wilmington 
and Charleston. At the latter location Gillmore and Dahlgren 
were called on to exert themelves and create the impression 
that Charleston was to be attacked. The blow at Wilmington 
was to be a surprise, a sneak play, to be cheaply won with 
the expenditure of only a few thouand troops. But late in 
September news of the proposed Wilmington expedition 
leaked to the press, and Grant, keeping his own counsel, de- 
ferred the attack. 

Under Porter the squadron acquired a new tautness and 
reckless energy. Crews when turned out at night, Porter or- 
dered, "must not wait to dress themselves, but get to quarters 
with their clothes in their hands." 8 To the daredevil Gushing, 
the new admiral promised promotion in grade if he sank the 
Rebel ram Albemarle near Plymouth, North Carolina, and 
he instructed Commander W. H. Macomb, in charge of 
operations in the sounds, to outfit his boats with proper 
grapnels so that, if the ram appeared, he could crowd in upon 
her from every side, "lay her on board," and fight it out 
hand to hand. "Even if half your vessels are sunk you must 
pursue this course." * On a dark night Gushing headed up 
the Roanoke River in a fast new steam torpedo boat, 

The Finish at Wilmington 295 

equipped with a torpedo fastened to the end of a long spar. 
By the light o campfires on shore he found the Confederate 
menace berthed inside a pen of logs* Gushing crowding on 
steam, swept wide around, and charged toward the log pen, 
sledding his vessel up on to the logs. Then, utterly oblivious 
of the Confederates on board the ram, who sprang their 
rattle, fired muskets, and trained their big gun directly at 
him, Gushing coolly lowered his torpedo-tipped spar, worked 
it forward under the Albemarle's overhanging armor, and 
exploded it beneath her wooden hull. At the same instant 
the ram's cannon was fired and Gushing dived into the water 
to make a nerve-tingling escape down the river. Macomb, 
not waiting for orders, pushed his gunboats up the river and 
retook the town of Plymouth before the Confederate panic 

Porter hailed Cushing's "absolute disregard of death or 
danger" as the spirit he wished to see prevail in the squad- 
ron. 10 Macomb and Gushing were both promoted. Lincoln 
recommended, and Congress passed, a vote of thanks for 
Gushing. To cap the climax, Porter raised Gushing to the 
command of his flagship for the forthcoming Fort Fisher 

By mid-October the Navy was on its toes to go ahead with 
the campaign, but week after week passed and Grant, who 
controlled all the Federal armies, neglected to assign a mili- 
tary force to collaborate. Finally on the twenty-eighth Gideon 
Welles protested officially to Lincoln. "Every other squadron 
has been depleted and vessels detached from other duty to 
strengthen this expedition. The vessels are concentrated at 
Hampton Roads and Beaufort, where they remain, an im- 
mense force lying idle, awaiting the movements of the army. 
The retention of so many vessels from blockade and cruising 
duty is a most serious injury to the public service, and if the 
expedition can not go forward for want of troops, I desire to 
be notified, so that the ships can be relieved and dispersed 
for other service ... the autumn weather so favorable for such 
an expedition is fast passing away. The public expect this 


attack and the country will be distressed if it be not made; to 
procrastinate much longer will be to peril its success/' " 
Lincoln, usually quick to intervene to patch up quarrels in 
the midst of a campaign, was often, as now, reluctant to inter- 
fere at the start. He declined to prod Grant, as Welles re- 

But the Navy was shortly rescued from its predicament by 
General B. F. Butler, now serving on the Richmond-Peters- 
burg front, from whose army the troops for Fort Fisher were 
to be drawn. Butler, after reading about a recent powder 
magazine explosion in England, suggested to Fox that a ship- 
load of powder detonated near Fort Fisher might temporarily 
stun its garrison and ease the way for a Federal assault. It 
was a period of new weapons and tactics, and the idea of a 
ship torpedo had not been tested. Ordnance experts opposed 
the scheme; one ridiculed it, comparing to it the firing of 
feathers from muskets. But the Navy went ahead with the 
powder boat, in the belief, apparently, that by accepting Gen- 
eral Butler's novel idea they would get the troops. 

At New Orleans Porter had slighted Butler by excluding 
the military from the ceremony when the forts were sur- 
rendered to the Mortar Flotilla, and Butler had retaliated by 
causing a staff member, Engineer Godfrey Weitzel, to make 
a detailed map of Fort Jackson to prove that it had not been 
seriously damaged by Porter's mortars. As it chanced, the 
division of Butler's troops which Grant picked to cooperate 
with Admiral Porter at Wilmington was under the immediate 
command of Godfrey Weitzel, now a fledgling major general. 

While the powder boat was being prepared, the bitter 
recollections of New Orleans were outwardly suppressed. 
There were social functions at Fortress Monroe and on the 
flagship, and staff officers spoke guardedly o the entente cor- 
diale between the general and the admiral. 

Early in December, Grant, learning that Confederate Gen- 
eral Bragg had withdrawn from Wilmington to face Sherman 
at Savannah, ordered the Wilmington expedition to get off 
at once, with or without the powder boat. By courtesy, the 

The Finish at Wilmington 297 

general-in-chief s orders were sent to Weitzel through his 
immediate superior, General Butler. Butler hurriedly pro- 
cured the army's share of powder to be loaded on the ship 
torpedo, and the expedition was embarked in the James River 
on December 8 and moved down to Hampton Roads. For 
five days the expedition's sailing was further delayed by 
storms in the Atlantic. The powder boat, with its dangerous 
freight and complicated detonating mechanisms, had to be 
towed to Beaufort, the fleet's advanced base. 

During these three days of waiting in Hampton Roads, 
Porter learned that Butler himself had embarked with the 
troops. It was the first indication he had had that the general 
intended to go on the expedition. To Fox, Porter wrote: 
"Butler has just put his troops on board the transports in all 
the rain and storm, and is now in a great hurry to get off. 
I believe the troops are all negroes, and I don't expect much 
of them. I believe Butler is going himself to look on or direct 
he had better leave it to Weitzel." 12 The entente cordiale 
evaporated, and there was no meeting of minds on how the 
expedition was to proceed. "General Butler did come on 
board my vessel one night in Hampton Roads," Porter later 
told the Committee on the Conduct of the War, "with Gen- 
eral Weitzel and Colonel Comstock, and asked me if I had a 
map of Cape Fear river, and I said I had. They asked niy 
opinion, and I gave my opinion of what I thought was the 
best way to go to work. They made no remarks whatever, but 
went into a far part of the cabin and there consulted together. 
After they got through their conversation, they got up, bade 
me 'good evening/ and went off. That was the only consulta- 
tion I ever had with them." 13 Butler told Weitzel his reason 
for going with the expedition was to "see that this powder- 
boat is exploded properly." 14 Butler's situation was compli- 
cated. While the expedition was being prepared, Weitzel, 
suffering from a sense of inferiority, had confided to Butler 
his belief that the latter had promoted him more rapidly 
than his ability and experience warranted Butler explained 


to Grant that his motive in going was "to take the responsi- 
bility off General Weitzel." 15 In any case, he went. 

As a result of poor staff work, there was needless confusion 
over the place of rendezvous near Wilmington. The naval 
forces rendezvoused first in Beaufort, seventy miles north o 
Wilmington, while the military hovered fifty miles to the 
southward off Masonboro Inlet. Three days of good weather 
were lost before Butler finally located Porter, then below 
the horizon twenty-five miles off the coast of Cape Fear. By 
this time the transports had to go into Beaufort for fuel and 
water. Storms locked them in port for several days. It was 
necessary to postpone the explosion of the powder boat. 
When, finally, the admiral felt he could delay no longer, he 
sent a messenger, allowing time for Butler's troops to reach 
the scene eight or ten hours after the explosion. But the 
messenger's boat, arriving off Beaufort at night, was pre- 
vented by a storm from crossing the bar and could not de- 
liver Porter's message until the next morning, some hours 
after the powder boat had been exploded. Butler, seventy 
miles away from Fort Fisher, interpreted this as a deliberate 
slight to the Army on Porter's part. 

The powder boat, towed close in toward the beach and 
anchored, would have made a fine prize for the Confederates 
to capture had Commander A. C. Rhind depended on its 
clockwork devices for igniting its fuses. Before he left the 
ship, Rhind built a fire in its after compartment, and it was 
this blaze, possibly, which, twenty-two minutes after schedule, 
set fire to her powder and exploded and burned her like a 
giant firework at 1:40 A.M. on December 24. Men in the fleet 
twelve miles away saw a column of flame shoot up and heard 
four distinct explosions. The effect of the powder boat upon 
Fort Fisher, however, was nil. Some of the Confederate gar- 
rison believed that a blockade-runner had blown up. 

Butler, alerted by the admiral's late message, reached the 
scene the next afternoon. Under pleasanter circumstances, he 
might have enjoyed the noise and spectacle of the fleet bom- 
bardment which was now in progress. Five commodores com- 

The Finish at Wilmington 200 

manded the several divisions of the armada, disposed on great 
arcs out from the fort, each hammering away at its own speci- 
fied segment of the mammoth target. 

With the aid of navy boats, Butler managed to put on shore 
between 2,100 and 2,300 of his 6,500 men, before a gathering 
storm and worsening surf moved him to halt the disembarka- 
tion. General Weitzel and Engineer Comstock scanned Fort 
Fisher's parapets from close range. Returning, they reported 
to General Butler that only two out of seventeen guns on the 
land face of the fort had been dismounted. Through Weitzel 
and Comstock, General Butler now urged Admiral Porter to 
run past the fort into Cape Fear River; but the Admiral re- 
plied that there was not water enough and suggested that 
Butler's troops storm the fort. 

Butler now decided to re-embark the troops and return to 
Hampton Roads. He believed (i) that Fort Fisher was not 
materially damaged, (2) that it was impossible to get food 
and ammunition ashore through the present high surf, and 
(3) that the fleet, in case of a protracted storm, would have 
to beat out to sea in order to avoid being driven ashore and 
wrecked. Although Grant's instructions had specified that if 
a landing was effected the troops should entrench themselves 
on the peninsula, Butler arrogated to himself the right to 
interpret Grant's language. To effect a landing, he explained 
later to the Committee on the Conduct of the War, "requires 
something more than to land 2,500 men out of six thousand, 
five hundred, on a beach with nothing but forty rounds in 
their cartridge boxes, and where their supplies would be 
driven off the first storm." 16 Accordingly, Butler re-embarked 
his troops, or all but about six hundred of them who could 
not be got off the beach because of the twelve-foot surf. These 
he left for the Navy to recover two days later and returned 
to Hampton Roads. 

Admiral Porter's amazement and chagrin shortly turned to 
disgust and violent anger. He wrote sizzling dispatches to 
Secretary Welles, who published them to defend the Navy 
and generate popular enthusiasm for the Wilmington opera- 


tion. Welles and Fox took Porter's letters and couriers to 
Lincoln, who listened sympathetically but insisted on de- 
ferring to General Grant's wishes. Stanton, when approached 
by Lincoln, readily agreed to give up Butler, but questioned 
whether Porter was any better "spoke of him as blatant, bois- 
terous, bragging, etc." 17 But both Welles and Fox supported 
Porter, who, for all his faults, had demonstrated superiority 
as a fighting commander. 

Grant sided with them, replying to their telegraphed ap- 
peal that he would immediately organize another expedition 
to be sent under sealed orders to Wilmington. To Admiral 
Porter General Grant wrote, "Hold on, if you please, a few 
days longer, and I will send you more troops, with a different 
general." 18 

Grant returned the same troops that had sailed on the first 
expedition, along with an added force of fifteen hundred 
men, eight thousand in all, under Brevet Major General A. H. 
Terry. The second expedition, having sailed under sealed 
orders, arrived at Beaufort on January 8. 

Porter was there to meet the new general. Terry came 
aboard the flagship "instantly" for the full and free confer- 
ences that General Grant had specifically ordered. Porter 
gave Terry copies of his own general orders, covering the 
naval attack procedure, and had Terry's general military 
orders printed for him on the flagship's presses. Violent gales 
penned the expedition in port until the twelfth, on which 
date the naval vessels formed in three lines, with the trans- 
ports in company, and steamed down the coast to within ten 
miles of Fort Fisher. 

Early on the fourteenth the gunboat division, selected to 
cover the landing of the troops, ran close in and shelled the 
woods. The transports moved inshore. At 9:00 A.M. the small 
boats of the division, with sailors at their oars, began putting 
the troops on shore. The surf was heavy, but the men~-chiefly 
the same white and Negro troops who had been here before 
took their ducking cheerfully, and by 3:00 P.M. the last man 
and the last box of provisions was put ashore. "Everything 

The Finish at Wilmington 301 

seemed to betoken great energy on the part of General 
Terry," commented navy Captain Breese in charge of landing 
operations. Terry shoveled a trench across the peninsula as a 
safeguard against attack from Wilmington, and shifted into 
position to assault Fort Fisher. 

Meanwhile, Porter sent Commodore Radford with the 
ironclads to anchor one thousand yards off the corner of the 
fort. These sturdy craft (the New Ironsides, the Saugus, the 
Ganonicus, the Monadnock, and the Mahopac) concentrated 
their heavy fire against the land face of Fort Fisher, splinter- 
ing the palisades, dismounting guns, pitting the parapets 
with a smallpox of shellholes, packing the muzzles of guns 
with sand, and cutting the wires leading to the fort's land 
mines. On arcs opposite the sea face of Fort Fisher was sta- 
tioned the most powerful battleship force ever assembled. 
They were in four divisions and contained sixty-two ships. 19 
Their deep-throated bombardment continued throughout the 
day of the fourteenth. 

On January 15, the day of General Terry's supreme effort, 
a landing party of two thousand sailors and marines from the 
fleet went ashore to spell out the last full measure of coopera- 
tion by sharing in the assault itself. The incident was pure 
plagiarism lifted from old storybooks, but Porter was grimly 
determined that this second grand effort should not fizzle. 
"The sailors will be armed with cutlasses, well sharpened, 

and with revolvers When the signal is made to assault 

. . . board the fort on the run in a seamanlike way." 20 

When General Terry at three o'clock gave the signal to 
attack, Porter shifted his naval fire away from the land face. 
The naval party under Captain K. R. Breese raced toward 
the seaward corner of the fort, while Terry rushed around 
the other end of the fort's land face. The navy men flashed 
cutlasses in the sun and popped their pistols, but found the 
going heavy in the deep sand. Lieutenants S. W. Preston and 
B. H. Porter, two of the admiral's aides, were killed at the 
front of the charge. Enemy sharpshooters mowed down sev- 
eral dozen before the remainder broke and fled down the 


beach or burrowed into the sand. While the seamen's assault 
failed, it occupied the attention of the defenders while Gen- 
eral Terry's troops gained entrance into the fort. 

Terry's soldiers black as well as white grappled desper- 
ately from one traverse to another. From 3:00 until 10:00 P.M. 
the battle raged. As long as daylight lasted, the ironclads, 
anchored near the shore, kept up their steady pounding of 
the bombproofs just ahead of the fighting Federal troops. 
Finally, at ten, Terry's rockets announced victory and the en- 
tire fleet erupted with cheers, steam whistles, blue Costons, 
and rockets. At long last Fort Fisher had fallen. The port of 
Wilmington was sealed to blockade-runners. The work of Mr. 
Lincoln's Navy was all but complete. Richmond was doomed. 

During the final months Mr. Lincoln enjoyed pleasant per- 
sonal associations with Farragut and Porter the two foremost 
naval fighters developed during the war. 

Farragut had been brought to Washington as president of 
the Naval Promotion Board. Although the assignment was 
expected to give him rest and enable him to recoup his 
strength, it involved endless ''dissipations" at the dinner table 
which, in the opinion of Captain Drayton, risked the ad- 
miral's life as much as his battles. Farragut's dryly witty 
ex-fleet captain cautioned Mrs, Farragut not to permit her 
husband "to run wild, and get back to the late hours which 
through constant lecturing I thought to have somewhat 
broken in on." 21 Farragut, however, Drayton wrote a friend 
on January si, 1865, "lives in society from morning to night, 
and seems to enjoy the excitement. He and his wife went to 
the opera with the President and lady the night before I came 
away." 22 

Late in January, while Porter was operating with the 
Army against the city of Wilmington, the Confederate rams 
in the James River broke through Dutch Gap to threaten 
Grant's supply base at City Point. Commander W. A. Parker 
shifted his double-turreted monitor Onondaga, he said, "to 
obtain an advantageous position," but his move looked like 

The Finish at Wilmington 303 

flinching to General Grant, who promptly telegraphed Wash- 
ington to have Parker removed. Lincoln summoned Farragut 
from the Hotel Willard and packed him oft to the James the 
same night to take whatever steps were necessary. The emer- 
gency had passed, however, before Farragut's special train 
reached Annapolis. Welles supplanted Parker by telegram, 
overwhelming forces were rushed up from Hampton Roads, 
and the Confederate rams retired above the barrier. In the 
final throes of the long contest, both Southern and Federal 
forces were on edge. 

In January F. P. Blair, Sr., and Montgomery Blair went 
to Richmond to feel out the grounds for an early peace, and 
in February Lincoln with Seward met the Confederate Peace 
Commissioners at Hampton Roads in an unsuccessful confer- 
ence. Toward the end of March, the President accepted 
Grant's invitation to visit the front and remained with army 
and navy officers until after Richmond had fallen. 

On the morning of March 28 Lincoln conferred on board 
the River Queen with Grant, Sherman, and Porter. His chief 
concern, testified Admiral Porter, was to secure the surrender 
of the Confederate armies without further loss of life, and 
to that end he desired liberal terms to be offered. "Let them 
surrender and go home," Porter quoted Lincoln as saying. 
"They will not take up arms again. Let them all go, officers 
and all, let them have their horses to plow with, and, if you 
like, their guns to shoot crows with." 23 

When Grant began his final push at Petersburg and Rich- 
mond, Lincoln sent the River Queen to return Mrs. Lincoln 
to Washington and for two days accepted a small cabin on 
Porter's flagship, the Malvern. The navy's job was now 
finished, and Porter was happy to spend the next week escort- 
ing the President. "Uncle Abe is having a good time down 
here," Porter reported to Fox on March 28, 1865, "and would 
have had a better one had he come alone. Mrs. Lincoln got 
jealous of a lady down here, and rather pulled his wig for 
him. We put him through the Navy and did all we could to 


make him forget the cares of office, for which he seems 
grateful." 24 

Lincoln positively refused to accept the admiral's cabin and 
spent the first night in somewhat cramped quarters. Porter 
had his carpenters enlarge the cabin and on the following 
morning Lincoln came out smiling, "A greater miracle than 
ever happened last night; I shrank six inches in length and 
about a foot sideways I" 25 

On the night of April i, forty-eight hours before Richmond 
was evacuated, Mr. Lincoln, sitting on the upper deck of the 
flagship off City Point, turned to the admiral and asked: 
"Can't the Navy do something at this particular moment to 
make history?" Porter reminded him that the Navy by simply 
being here was holding Richmond's river flotilla in check. 
"But, can't we make a noise?" 26 

Porter, accordingly, sent Commander William Roncken- 
dorff up the James River to direct the monitors to open fire 
on the Rebel works above Hewlett's Battery. As soon as the 
moon went down they were to send off rockets, burn blue 
lights, and open a brisk cannonade with ten-second shells. 

"Keep this up for half an hour, firing rapidly The object 

is merely to make the rebels think that we are about to make 
an attack. They are prepared to sink their gunboats at the 

first sign of one. Understand perfectly what I want done 

It is not necessary for any one of the monitors to make any 
changes in their positions. The only object is to make a 
noise/ 1 27 

The President's demonstration, from 12:30 to 1:30 A.M. 
on April 2, anticipated the evacuation of Richmond and the 
self-destruction of the long-hoarded Confederate flotilla by 
about thirty hours. At 7:30 on the morning of the third, Cap- 
tain H. A. Adams, Jr., came on board the Malvern to report 
that Richmond was evacuated and two hours later the heavy 
explosions of the Confederate flotilla were heard. 

Porter accompanied the restless President on visits to 
Petersburg and Richmond. When Stanton learned of Lin- 
coln's projected trip to Petersburg, he admonished sharply: 

The Finish at Wilmington 305 

"Commanding generals are in the line of their duty in run- 
ning such risks; but is the political head of a nation in the 
same condition?" "Thanks for your caution/' responded 
Lincoln, "but I have already been to Petersburg. Staid with 
Grant an hour and a half and returned here. It is certain 
now that Richmond is in our hands, and I think I will go 
there to-morrow. I will take care of myself." 28 At 10:45 A * M - 
on the fourth, as soon as Porter's boats had cleared the tor- 
pedoes from the James River, Porter headed upstream in the 
Malverri; followed by the President in the River Queen., 
which had returned from Washington. The Malvern, having 
grounded a short distance below Richmond, Porter took the 
President in his barge, and, accompanied by a tug with a 
file of twenty-four marines, continued on to Richmond. 
Through streets crowded with rejoicing Negroes, Lincoln 
walked to General Weitzel's headquarters at the Confederate 
White House. At times Porter had to protect his charge from 
the jubilant mobs by threatening to use the bayonets of his 
marines. Federal troops who had been fighting fires in the 
central part of the city at length appeared on the scene to 
give added protection to Mr. Lincoln. "It was a gala day," 
Admiral Porter later recalled, "and no man was ever ac- 
corded a warmer welcome. The heat of the weather was 
suffocating; the President towered a head and shoulders above 
the crowd, fanning himself with his hat, and looking as if he 
would give the Presidency for a glass of water/* 29 

After a night on the Malvern anchored at the Rockets, 
Lincoln spent a second day at Richmond before returning to 

The electrifying news of the surrender at Appomattox 
Court House rang down the curtain on the story of Mr. 
Lincoln's Navy. Through four years it had grown in num- 
bers from a handful of 23 to 641 ships of all types. Many of 
these were converted merchantmen, ferryboats, and whaling 
schooners. Soon after they had fired their victory salutes they 
would find their way to auction block or wrecker's hammer. 
But others were more permanent, like the double-turreted, 


seagoing monitors. The U.S. monitor Miantonomah would 
soon cross the Atlantic to return a ceremonial visit to the 
Russians. The U.S. monitor Monadnock would soon sail 
around Cape Horn to become the first modern American war- 
ship to enter the Pacific. 

The work of Mr. Lincoln's Navy, as it had been blocked 
out by Gideon Welles near the beginning of the struggle- 
splitting the Confederacy in two along the line of the Missis- 
sippi River, establishing the greatest blockade in history, 
defeating enemy raiders on the high seas, and, in conjunction 
with the Army, seizing key positions along the coast was work 
that Mr. Lincoln and the entire country felt had been well 

Indeed, in Lincoln's words, "Uncle Sam's web feet" had 
been present "at all the watery margins ... on the deep sea, 
the broad bay, and the rapid river ... up the narrow, muddy 
bayou, and wherever the ground was a little damp, they had 
been and made their tracks. Thanks to all." 30 


Bibliographical References 

Abbreviations Used in Bibliographical References 

Battles and Leaders = Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (4 vols., 
New York: The Century Co., 1887). 

Fox, Corr. =. R. M. Thompson and R. Wainwright (eds.), Confidential 
Correspondence of Gustavus Vasa Fox, Assistant Secretary of the 
Navy, 1861-186$ (2 vols., New York: Naval History Society, 1918- 

O.R.N. = Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the 
War of the Rebellion (30 vols., Washington, D. C.: Government 
Printing Office, 1894-1922). Unless otherwise noted all references are 
to Series I. 

Reb. Rec, = Frank Moore (ed.), The Rebellion Record: A Diary of 
American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Anecdotes, 
Poetry, etc. (n vols., New York: G. P. Putnam, 1861-1864). 

Report = Report of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War at 
the Second Session of the Thirty-Eighth Congress (Washington, 
D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1865), II, III. Vol. II contains 
hearings on the Red River and Fort Fisher campaigns, and Vol. Ill 
the investigation of the light-draft monitors. 

Scharf, Confed. Navy = J. T. Scharf, History of the Confederate States 
Navy (New York: Rogers & Sherwood, 1887). 

W.R. = The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official 
Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (128 vols., Washing- 
ton, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1902). Unless otherwise 
noted all references are to Series I. 

Welles, Diary = Diary of Gideon Welles. (3 vols., Boston: Houghton 
Company, 1911). 

West, Second Admiral = Richard S. West, Jr., The Second Admiral: a 
Life of David Dixon Porter, 1813-1891 (New York: Coward-McGann, 
Inc., 1937). 

West, Welles = Richard S. West, Jr., Gideon Welles: Lincoln's Navy 
Department (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1943)- 




1. Reb. Rec., I, Diary, 4. 

2. Ibid., p. 3. 

3. WJl. f I, 100. 

4. Ibid., p. 103. 

5. Reb. Rec., I, Diary, 7. 

6. W.R.,I, 114. 

7. O.R.N., IV, 220. 

8. W.R., I, 334-35; 0.#.N V I, xv. 

9. O.R.N., IV, 48-53. 

10. Ibid., p. 61. 

11. Ifo'dL, pp. 41, 56. 

12. Ibid., p. 63. 

13. Ibid., p. 71. 

14. Ibid., p. 89. 

15. Reb. Rec., I, Documents, No. 43. 


1. Reb. Rec., I, Document No. 46, p. 42. 

2. Ibid., Diary, p. 16. 

3. N. Y. Herald, Nov. 28, 1861, p. 2. 

4. W.R., I, 196. 

5. West, Welles, p. 99. 

6. Fox, Com, I, 9. 

7. W.R., I, 292. 

8. O.R.N., IV, 227. 

9. TF.-R., I, 230. 

10. Ibid., p. 235. 

11. Ibid., p. 291. 

12. O.R.N., IV, 136. 

13. West, Second Admiral, Chs. 8, 9. 

14. D. D, Porter, Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War (New York: 

D. Appleton and Co., 1885), pp. 15-16, 

15. West, Welles, p. 101. 

16. OJRJV., IV, 109. 

17. Ibid., p. 129. 

18. Ibid., p. 112. 

19. West, Welles, p. 105. 

20. Gideon Welles Papers, Library of Congress, 28891. 

21. W.R., I, 285. 

22. Ibid., p. 301, 

23. Fox, Corr., I, 32-33. 

24. WJL.,1, 378. 



1. Welles, Diary, I, 40. 

2. Reb. Rec., I, Document 54, p. 61. 

3. W.R., II, 771. 

4. Scharf, Confed. Navy, p. 132. 

5. O.R.N., IV, 291-92. 

6. W.R., II, 23. 

7. O.R.N., IV, 274. 

8. Ibid., pp. 277-78. 

9. Sen. Kept. No. 37, 37th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 26, 

10. Q.R.N., IV, 279. 

11. Ibid., p. 281. 

12. Welles, Diary, I, 44. 

13. Ibid., p. 45. 

14. JR<?&. Rec., I, Documents, 120. 

15. O.R.N., IV, 290. 

16. Sen. Rept No. 37, 37th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 52. 

17. O.R.N., IV, 291. 

18. Ibid., p. 295. 

19. Reb. Rec., I, Documents, 100. 

20. Sen. Rept., No. 37, 37th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 19. 


1. O.R JV V IV, 156, 340. 

2. Welles, manuscript diary, Library of Congress. 

3. Ibid. 

4. Rept. of Sec. Navy, Dec. 2, 1861, pp. 18-19. 

5. Fox, Com, I, pp. 44, 45. 

6. R. S. West,, Jr., "Private and Confidential-My Dear Fox/ 1 U. S. 

Naval Institute Proceedings, May, 1937. 

7. O.R.N., XII, 195-206. 

8. Ex. Doc. No. i, 2d Sess., 37th Cong., Vol. III. Rept. of Sec Navy, 

July 4, 1861. 

9. West, Welles, p. i39ff-; and R. S. West, Jr., "The Morgan Pur- 

chases," U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Jan., 1940. 

10. Welles Papers, Library of Congress, 28536. 

11. Rept. of Sec. Navy, Dec. 2, 1861, p. 3. 


1. OJRJV., V, 620-22. 

2. Reb. Rec., I, Diary, p. 10. 

3. C. R. Boynton, The History of the Navy during the Rebellion (2 

vols., New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867) I, 317^ 


4. O.R.N., V, 788. 

5. Ibid., p. 702. 

6. Ibid., pp. 732, 641. 

7. Reb. Rec., II, Diary, 37. 

8. J&zU, p. 51. 

9. O.R.N., XVI, 551, 

10. O.R.N., IV, 125. 

11. Welles, Diary, I, 76. 

is*. #&. Itec., I, Diary, 77. 

13. O.R.N., XVI, 527. 

14. Ibid., p. 574- 

15. J&i'd., p. 543. 

16. Ibid., p. 571. 

17. Fox, Corr., II, 73. 

18. O.E.N., XVI, 572. 

19. Fox, Cory., II, 74. 

20. O.R.N., XVI, 160-61. 


1. O.R.N., XII, 195. 

2. Jfa'rf., p. 207. 

3. JPJR., VI, 171. 

4. O.R.N., V, 688. 

5. Private and Official Correspondence of Gen. Benjamin F. Butler 

(5 vols., Norwood, Mass.: Privately issued, copyright 1917, by 
Jessie Ames Marshall), I, 213. Hereafter cited as "Butler, Corr" 

6. O.R.N., VI, 120. 

7. Reb. Rec. y III, Documents, 17. 

8. Butler, Corr v I, 227-28. 

9. O.R.N., VI, 124. 

10. Ibid., p. 217. 

11. Ibid., p. 234. 

12. Ibid., pp. 220, 215. 

13. O.H..N"., XII, 262. 

14. Reb. Rec., Ill, Documents, 307. 

15. Ibid., p. 313. 

16. O.R.N., XII, 291. 


1. Reb. Rec., Ill, Diary, 60. 

2. O.R.N., I, 169. 

3. Ibid., pp. 143-44- 

4. Ibid., p. 132, 

5. Ibid., p. 135. 


6. Ibid., p. 158. 

7. N. Y. Times, Dec. 6, 1861, p, 4; Reb. Rec., Ill, Documents, 333. 

8. O.R.N., I, 148. 

g. G. Welles, Lincoln and Seward (New York: Sheldon and Go,, 1874), 
p. 186. 

10. West, Welles, p. 131. 

11. T. L. Harris, The Trent Affair (Indianapolis: The Bowen-Merrill 

Company, 1896), p. 119. 

12. Ibid., p. 124. 

13. Reb. Rec., Ill, Documents, 473. 

14. N. Y. Times, Nov. 21, 1861, p. 4. 

15. Ibid., Nov. 20, 1861, p. 4. 

16. O.R.N., XII, 833. 

17. West, Welles, p. 137. 

18. N. Y. Times, Dec. 20, 1861, p. 2. 

19. Reb. Rec., IV, Diary, i. 


1. West, Welles, p. 148 ff. 

2. Battles and Leaders, I, 717, 

3. Rept. of Sec. Navy, July 4, 1861; J. P. Baxter, The Introduction of 

the Ironclad Warship (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University 
Press, 1933), p. 245. 

4. Rept. of Sec. Navy, Dec. 2, 1861, p. 152. 

5. Baxter, op. cit., p. 246. 

6. Rept. of Sec. Navy, Dec. 2, 1861, p. 152. 

7. Ibid., p. 153. 

8. W. C. Church, The Life of John Ericsson (2 vok, New York: 

Charles Scribners' Sons, 1906), I, pp. 246-47. 

9. Battles and Leaders, I, 749, 748. 

10. Reb. Rec., IV, Documents, 58. 

11. Battles and Leaders, I, 731. 

12. Church, op. cit., II, 2. 

13. Reb. Rec., IV, Documents, 57-58. 

14. P. Benjamin, The United States Naval Academy (New York: G. P. 

Putnam's Sons, 1900), p. 203. 

15. H. C. Baird, "Narrative of Rear Admiral Goldsborough, U. S. 

Navy/' U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, July, 1933, p. 1023 ff - 

16. A. T. Mahan, From Sail to Steam (New York: Harper & Brothers 

Publishers, 1907), p. 192. 

17. O JUST., VI, 682. 

18. Battles and Leaders, I, pp. 720-21. 

19. O JfcJV., VII, 69. 

20. Ibid., p. 44. 


CHAPTER 9. THE Monitor AND THE Merrimack 

1. T. Dennett (ed.), Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and 

Letters of John Hay (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1939), 
p. 36. 

2. Welles, Diary, 1, 63. 

3. W.R., IX, 20. 

4. Ibid., p. 19. 

5. Ibid., p. 53. 

6. O.R.N.,VII, 11. 

7. Battles and Leaders, I, 725. 

8. O.R.N.,VIl, 11-12. 

9. Battles and Leaders, I, 757. 

10. O.R.N., VII, 59. 

11. Ibid., p. 6. 

12. Ibid., p. 220. 

13. Ibid., p. 751. 

14. Ibid., p. 326. 

15. N. Y. Herald, May 13, 1862, p. 7. 

16. Ibid., May 11, p. 4; May 12, p. 5; May 13, p. 7; May 15, p. 4. 

17. Welles, Diary, I, 67. 


1. O.R.N., XVI, 627. 

2. Ibid. 

3. Ibid., pp. 675-76. 

4. Ibid., p. 680. 

5. West, Second Admiral, Ch. 12. 

6. G. Welles, "Admiral Farragut and New Orleans/' The Galaxy, 

November, 1871, p. 677; C. L. Lewis, David Glasgow Farragut, 
Our First Admiral (Annapolis: IL S, Naval Institute, 1943), Ch. i. 

7. Welles, Diary, I, 60. 

8. Welles, "Admiral Farragut and New Orleans," The Galaxy, Novem- 

ber, 1871, p. 674. 
g. Welles, Diary, II, 117. 

10. R. S. West, Jr., "Admiral Farragut and General Butler," U. S. Naval 

Institute Proceedings, June, 1956, pp. 635-43. 

11. L. Farragut, The Life of David Glasgow Farragut, First Admiral 

of the U. S. Navy (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1879), p. 208. 

12. O.R.N., XVIII, 5. 

13. W.R.,Vl, 678. 

14. Butler, Corr., I, 372-74. 

15. OJJJV., XVIII, 14-15. 

16. Fox, Corr., II, 90. 


17. J. Parton, General Butler in New Orleans (New York: Mason 

Brothers, 1864), p. 209. 

18. O.R.N., XVIII, 48-49. 


1. A. T. Mahan, The Gulf and Inland Waters (New York: Charles 

Scribners' Sons, 1883), pp. 58-59. 

2. J. T. Durkin, Stephen R. Mallory, Confederate Navy Chief (Chapel 

Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1954). A good 
general picture of Confederate difficulties in shipbuilding. 

3. N. Y. Times, April 2, 1862. 

4. West, Second Admiral, pp. 124-26. 

5. W.R.,V1, 525- 

6. O.R.N., XVIII, 365. 

7. Scharf, Confed. Navy, p. 294. 

8. O.R.N., XVIII, 164. 

9. Ibid., p. 361 ffi. 

10. Ibid., p. 769. 

11. Autobiography of George Dewey (New York: Charles Scribners' 

Sons, 1913), p. 65; R. S. West, Jr., Admirals of American Empire 
(Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1948), p. 71. 

12. OJLZV., XVIII, 182. 

13. Ibid., p. 142. 

14. Ibid., p. 158. 

15. Ibid., p. 154. 

16. Ibid., p. 158. 

17. N. Y. Herald, May 10, 1862, p. 5. 

18. O.R.N., XVIII, 229. 

19. N. Y. Herald, May 2, 1862, p. i. 

20. West, Second Admiral, p. 140. 

21. Fox, Corr., II, 107. 


1. Scharf, Confed. Navy, p. 239. 

2. O.R.N., XXH, 278. 

3. Ibid., p. 284. 

4. Ibid., p. 307. 

5. Fox, Corr., II, 25. 

6. Ibid., p. 23. 

7. Ibid., p. 36. 

8. OJLN., XXII, 516. 

9. Ibid., p. 523. 

10. Ibid., p. 537. 

11. Ibid., p. 546. 


12. Ibid., p. 549. 

13. Battles and Leaders, I, 342-45. 

14. O.R.N., XXII, 585. 

15. I&tU, p. 652. 

16. J. M. Hoppin, Life of Andrew Hull Foote (New York: Harper and 

Bros., 1874), p. 252. 

17. O.R.N., XXII, 636. 

18. Ibid., p. 527. 

19. H. Walke, Naval Scenes and Reminiscences of the Civil War (New 

York: F. R. Reed & Co., 1877), p. 124. 

20. N. Y. Herald f April 15, 1862, p. i. 

21. O.RJX., XXIII, p. 14 ff. 

22. Ibid., p. 73. 


1. O.R.N., XVIII, 8. 

2. Ibid., p. 466. 

3. PFJR.,XV, 13. 

4. OJWST., XVIII, 700. 

5. I&iU, p. 518. 

6. Ibid., p. 519. 

7. W.R., XV, 23. 

8. OJR-AT., XVIII, 509. 

9. Ibid., p. 706. 

10. N. Y. Herald, May 15, 1862, p. i. 

11. O.R.N., XVIII, 499. 

12. Ibid., p. 498, 

13. Ibid., p. 499. 

14. Z&z'd., p. 521. 

15. Butler, Corr., I, 562. 

16. 0.JRJV., XVIII, 710. 

17. Ibid., p. 587. 

18. I6M V p. 586. 

19. Ibid.; p. 600. 

20. Ibid., p. 713. 

21. Ibid. 

22. IW<L, pp. 638-43. 

23. West, Second Admiral, p. 156. 

24. OJRJST., XVIII, 589-90. 

25. Ibid.* p. 590. 

26. Ibid., p. 641. 

27. OJUV., XXHI, 267. 

28. I&aU, p. 236. 



(Part One) 

1. Welles, Diary, I, 157-58. 

2. W.R., XVII, Pt. II, 502. 

3. W.R., XXIV, Pt. I, 14. 

4. O.R.N., XXIII, 469. 

5. West, Second Admiral, Ch. 18. 

6. O.R.N., XXIII, 512. 

7. /&<., p. 508. 

8. Ibid., p. 421. 

9. JM&, p. 529. 

10. Ibid., p. 508. 

11. W.R., XVII, PL II, 420. 

12. Ibid., p. 425. 

13. N. Y. Times, Jan. 19, 1863, p. i. 

14. O.R.N., XXIII, 573. 

15. West, Second Admiral, p. 190. 

16. O.R.N., XXIII, 602. 


(Part Two) 

1. O.R.N., XXIV, 99 iff.; W.R., XVII, Pt. II, 537. 

2. West, Second Admiral, p. 196. 

3. O.R.N., XXIV, 108. 

4. Reb. Rec., VI, Documents, 365; W. T. Sherman, Memoirs (* vols., 

New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1875), I, 331. 

5. W.R., XVII, Pt. II, 553-54. 

6. Ibid., p. 555. 

7. Ibid., p. 566. 

8. W.R., XXIV, Pt. I, 8. 

9. Ibid., p. 11. 

10. O.RJV., XXIV, 181. 

11. W.R., XXIV, Pt. I, 394. 

12. Ibid., p. 373. 

13. West, Second Admiral, p. 215. 

14. Ibid., p. 218. 

15. OJUV., XXIV, 493-94. 

16. Ibid., p. 495. 

17. O.RXF., XIX, 668. 

18. O.RM., XXIV, 553-54. 

19. Ibid., p. 556. 

20. West, Second Admiral, p. 223; Fox, Corr., H, 170. 

21. O.H JV., XIH, 804. 


22. O.R.N., XXIV, 6lO. 

23. W.R., XXIV, Pt. I, 93. 

24. West, Second Admiral, p. 237; Welles, Diary, I, 364. 


1. M, V. Dahlgren, Memoir of John A. Dahlgren (Boston: James R. 

Osgood and Co., 1882), contains extensive excerpts from the 
admiral's diary. 

2. West, Welles, p. 218. 

3. G. Hoyt (ed.), Naval Letters of Captain Percival Drayton, 1861-1865, 

from MSS in N. Y. Public Library, New York, 1906, p. 21. Cited 
hereafter as "Dray ton, Letters" 

4. Q.RJX., XIII, 324. 

5. Ibid., p. 423. 

6. Ibid., p. 550. 

7. Ibid., p. 556. 

8. Ibid., p. 579. 

9. W.R., XIV, 436. 
10. Fox, Corn, I, 197. 
n. O.R.N.,XIV, 5. 

12. H. Greeley, The American Conflict (2 vols., Chicago: G. and C. W, 

Sherwood, 1866), II, 466. 

13. O.R.N., XIV, 25. 

14. Ibid*, p. 28. 

15. Ibid*, p. 18. 

16. T. Dennett (ed.), Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and 

Letters of John Hay (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1939), 

P- 59- 

17. Welles, Diary, I, 268-69. 

18. O.JRJV., XIV, 132. 

19. Ibid., pp. 132-33. 

20. Ibid.f pp. 212-13. 

21. Ibid., p. 567. 

22. Welles, Diary, I, 475. 


1. Welles, Diary, I, 390-91. 

2. Ibid., p. 391. 

3. Report, II, 102-03. 

4. Ibid., p. 103. 

5. Ibid., p, xviii. 

6. Ibid., p. xix. 

7. Ibid., p. xxi. 

8. Ibid., p. 114. 


9. O.R.N., XXV, 633. 

10. West, Second Admiral, p. 245; O.R.N., XXVI, 2*9. 

11. Report, II, 303. 

12. Ibid., p. 18. 

13. Ibid., pp. 383-84. 

14. O.R.N., XXVI, 61; Report, II, 5504. 

15. West, Second Admiral, p. 255; O.R.N., XXVI, 56. 

16. OJR.N V XXVI, 47. 

17. W.R., LXXII, 25. 

18. O.R.N., XXVI, 86, 

19. Ibid., p. 92. 

20. J&zcL, p. 130. 

21. Ibid., p. 131. 

22. Ibid., p. 132. 


1. West, Second Admiral, p. 148. 

2. O.R.N., XIX, 103. 

3. Ibid., p. 185. 

4. Ibid., pp. 646, 807. 

5. O..R.AT., XXI, 547. 

6. Report, III, "Light-Draft Monitors/' i-iv. 

7. OJfcJV., XXI, p. 89. 

8. Ibid., p. 53. 

9. Ibid., p. 219. 

10. Ibid., p. 416. 

11. Battles and Leaders, IV, 388. 

12. O.R.N., XXI, 445. 

13. A. T. Mahan, Admiral Farragut (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 

1883), p. 277. 

14. O.R.N., XXI, 417. 

15. Ibid., pp. 406-13; Battles and Leaders, IV, 403. 

16. O.R.N., XXI, 440. 

17. Welles, Diary, II, 100. 


1. O.R.N., I, 34. 

2. R. Semmes et al., The Cruise oj the Alabama and the Sumter (ist 

vol., New York: Carlston, 1864), p. 49. 

3. O.RJW., I, p. 685. 

4. Issue for May 3, 1862. 

5. Issue for April 12, 1862. 

6. West, Welles, p. 201. 

7. Reb. Rec., IV, Documents, 216. 


8. J. D. Bulloch, The Secret Service of the Confederate States in 

Europe (2 vols., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1884), I, 57-58. 

9. Ibid., p. 162. 

10. O.R.N., I, 470. 

11. Welles, Diary, I, 179, 191, 207. 
u. O.R.N., I, p. 779. 

13. West, Welles, p. 252. 

14. O.R.N., II, 19. 

15. Ibid., p. 61. 

16. Welles, Diary , I, 309. 

17. Ibid., pp. 304-05. 

18. O.RJV., II, 634-37. 

19. Ibid*, p. 276. 

20. O.R.N., III, 677-81. 

21. Ibid., p. 648. 

22. Ibid., p. 677. 

23. Reb. Rec., IX, Documents, 236. 

24. O.R.N.,III, 59. 

25. Ibid., p. 665. 

26. Welles, Diary, II, 71. 

27. O.RJX., Ill, 257. 

28. Welles, Diary, II, 186. 

29. Compiled from Scharf, Confed. Navy, pp, 814-18. 


1. Cambridge Modern History, VII, 557. 

2. O.R.N., VIII, 526. 

3. Ibid., pp. 313-14. 

4. Ibid., p. 834. 

5. Welles, Diary, II, 146-47. 

6. Ibid., p. 148. 

7. Ibid., p. 146. 

8. O.R.N., XI, 75-76. 

9. O.RN., X, 594. 

10. Ibid., p. 618. 

11. O.R.N., XI, 3. 

12. Report, II, "Fort Fisher Campaign/' 216. 

13. Ibid., p. 95. 

14. Ibid., p. 69. 

15. Ibid., p. 15. 

16. Ibid., p. 26. 

17. Welles, Diary, II, 215. 

18. Report, p. 102. 

19. O.R.N., XI, chart opposite p. 425. 


20. West, Second Admiral, p. 285. 

21. Drayton, Letters, p. 78. 

22. Ibid., p. 75. 

23. D. D. Porter, The Naval History of the Civil War (New York: 

The Sherman Publishing Company, 1886), p. 794. 

24. West, Second Admiral, p. 293. 

25. D. D. Porter, Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War (New York: 

D. Appleton and Co., 1891), p. 285. 

26. Porter, Naval History, p. 796. 

27. O.R.N., XII, 95. 

28. W.R., XLVT, Pt. Ill, 509. 

29. Porter, Naval History, p. 798. 

30. C. O. Paullin, "President Lincoln and the Navy," American 

Historical Review, XIV, 285. 



Abbot, executive officer of Mercedita, 


Abby Bradford , prize, 272 
Adams, C. F., 89, 97, 276 
Adams, H. A., n, 13, 21, 65 
Adams, H. A., Jr., 304 
Adelaide -, chartered vessel, 77, 81 
Adriatic, British ship, 97 
Alabama, C.S.S., 258, 259, 274, 276, 

278, 279, 280, 282, 284 
Albatross, U.S.S., 64, 218 
Albemarle, C.S. ironclad, 294-95 
Alden, J., 35, 36, 40, 150, 182, 186, 

265, 266 

Ammen, D., 85, 232 
Anderson, R., 3-5, 7, 18-20, 26 
Andrew, J. A., 96, 137 
Andrews, W. S. G., 76 
Anglo-Norman, C.S.S., 154 
Archer, C.S.S., 282 
Ariel, Aspinwall steamer, 279 
Arkansas, C.S.S., 190-93 
Arkansas Post, 205-6 
Armstrong, J., 8-11 
Aroostook, U.S.S., 126 
Aspinwall, W. H., 47 
Atlantic* chartered steamer, 27 
Atlantic Blockading Squadron, 61 
Augusta, U.S.S., 86, 230 

Bache, A. D., 52 

Bailey, J., 253, 254 

Bailey, T., 141, 149, 151, 155, 183 

Baldwin, C. H., 188 

Baltic, chartered steamer, 19, 20, 27, 


Bankhead, J, P., 85 
Banks, N. P., 196, 217, 222-23, 2 43-55 


Barnard, J. G., 52, 138 

Baron De Kalb U.S.S., 205, 212 

Barren, S., 12, 13, 23, 80 

Bat, blockade-runner, 288 

Baton Rouge, 183, 193 

Beaufort, CSS., 113 

Beauregard, P. G. T., 16, 20, 26, 89, 

Bell, H. H., 142, 149, 150, 179, 182, 


Benjamin, J. P., 97 
Benton, ILS.S., 171-72, 175, 192, 201-2, 

220, 222 

Berryman, O. H., 12, 13 
Bienville, U.S.S., 85, 86 
Black Hawk, U.S.S., 198, 205 
Blair, F. P., 202 
Blair, F. P., Sr. 5 293, 303 
Blair, M., 17, 50, 95, 161, 293, 303 
Blake, H. C., 280 
Blatchford, R. M., 47 

off Charleston, 62, 226, 230, 240 

off Mobile, 258, 261, 270 

off Texas, 256 

off Wilmington, 288 

procedure, 57 

proclamation, 44 

miscellaneous references, 46, 51, 54, 
67, 69, 74, 82, 100, 108, no, 130, 


blockade-runners, 89, 227, 244, 275, 288 

Blue Wing, army transport, 204, 207 

Boggs, C. S,, 150, 153 

Bowling Green, 170 

Bragg, B., 16, 21 

Breese, K. R., 137, 147, 301 

Breese, S. L-, 47 

Bridge, H., 47 


Brooklyn, U.S.S., 6, 7, u, 12, 21, 65, 67, 
70, 71, 141, 150, 152, 181, 186, 
188, 189, 565, 266, 367, 272 

Brown, G,, 265 

Blown, G. W., 45 

Brown, H., 22, 27, 64, 66 

Brown, I. N., 190 

Buchanan, F., 48, 112-14, 259, 269 

Buchanan, J., 2, 5, 6 

Buckner, S. B., 170 

Bulloch, J. D,, 276 

Burnside, A., 109 

Bushaell, C. S., 104, 125 

Butler, B, F., 48, 54, 62, 75, 77, 78, 
So, 81, 108, 110, 132, 154, 137, 
139, 140, 146, 155-57* i&>> 185, 
193, 196, 256-57, 270, 290, 296-99 

Butler, Mrs. B. F., 1 39 

Cairo, 111., 163, 197, 201 

Caldwell, C. H. B., 150, 182 

Caleb Gushing, revenue cutter, 282 

Calhoun, J. C., i 

Cameron, S., 17, 138 

Campbell, R, L., 10 

Canby, E. JL S., 262 

Cane River, La., 253 

Canonicus, U,S,S,, 301 

Carondelet, U.S.S., 165, 167-69, 173- 

74, 191, 220, 255 
Casey, S. E,, 247, 252 
Castle Pinckney, 5 
Catskill U.S.S,, 233, 234, 236 
Cayuga t U.S.S., 149, 151 
Charles McCees, prize, 64 
Charleston, attack on by ironclads, 


Chase, W. H., 12, 46, 127 
Chauncey, J. S., 77 
Chew, R. S,, 20 

Chickasaw, U.S.S., 261, 264, 270 
Ghicora, C.S.S., 228-30 
Chillicothe, U.S.S., aig, 255 
Churchill, T., 206 
Cimarron, U.S.S., 278 
Cincinnati, U&, 165, iQQ 3 ^g, 172, 

1 75> ^05, 206, 216 

Clarence-Tawny, C.S.S. raider, 281 
Clarksville, Tenn., 170 
Clifton, U.S.S., 137, 351, 188, 207 
Collins, J., 266 
Collins, N., 85, 286 


Colorado, U.S.S., 71, 140, 141 

Columbus, K.y., 158, 170 

commerce raiders, Confederate, 271 


Comstock, C. B,, 297, 299 
Conestoga, U.S.S., 160, 162, 165, 169 
Congres^ U.S.S., 112-14 
Constitution,, U.S.S., 48 
Con way, W,, 10 
cotton, capture of, 249 
Gouronne, French cruiser, 284 
Coushatta, 251 

Craven, T, A, M., 13, 264, 266 
Craven, T- T., 150, 152, 178, 182, 


Cricket, U.S.S., 252 
Crosby, P., 77, 150, 186 
Crusader, U.S.S., 13 
Cumberland, U.S.S., 32, 37, 39, 41, 

43>777 8 * us, 113 
Curlew, U.S.S., 86 
Gushing, W. B., 292, 294, 295 

Bacotah, U,S.S., 278 
Dahlgren, J. A., 30, 36, 49, 101, 110, 
116, 224, 225, 239, 240, 262, 294 
Dana, C. A., 222 
Daniel Troubridge, prize, 273 
"Davids," 241 
Davis, C. H., 52, 55, 101, 175, 176, 

i79 l8 9 19^ 19^ 
Davis, Jefferson, 16, 44, 230 
Dayton, minister to France, 283 
DeCamp, J., 150, 182, 186 
Deerhound, English yacht, 284 
De Russy, Colonel, C, S. A., 248 
Dewey, G., 152 
Dix, J. A., 291 
Dixie ' f privateer, 63 
Dolphin, U.S.$., 30, 33 
Donaldson, E., 150, 182, 186, 265 
Donaldsonville, La., 193 
Dowries, J., 227, 233, 3 6 
Drayton, P., 86, 226, 232, 235, 265, 

267, 269, 302 
Drayton, T* F., 86 
Drury's Bluff, 128 
Duncan, J. K,, 147, 156 
Duimington, Colonel, C. S. A., 206 
Du Pont, S. F., 48, 52, 55 , 73 , 82, 83, 

84, 86, 87, 88, 136, 2*4, 225, **7, 

228, 230, 232, 236, 238 


Eads, J. B., 159 

Eastport, U.S.S,, 168, 348, 250, 251 

Edelin, J., 37 

Ellet, C. R., 176, 212 

Ellet Ram Fleet, 176, 191, 197 

Enchantress, prize, 64 

Erben, H., 9, 192 

Ericsson, J,, 102, 104, 105, 224, 260 

"Ericsson's Folly/' See Monitor 

Essex, U.S.S., 165, 166, 168, 192, 193, 

Evarts, W., 47 

Fairfax, D. M., 91, 93, 94, 233, 236 
Fanny, tug, 77, 80 

Farragut, D. G., 39, no, 135, 136, 
139, 140, 142, 146, i48~5> i52-53> 
155, 157, 176-78, 180-82, 184, 186- 
92, 196, 217, 218, 223, 242, 256-57, 
259-61, 263-65, 267-69, 293, 302 
Farrand, E., 9, 10 
Faunce, J., 77 
Felton, S. M., 48 
Fingal, C.S.S., 227 
Fitch, Le Roy, 198 
Florida, C.S.S., 258, 259, 276, 278-80, 


Floyd, J. B., 2, 4, 5 
Foote, A. H., 24, 161, 163-75 
Forest Queen, transport, 220 
Forrest, N. B., 195, 203 

Barrancas, 3, 8, 9 

Beauregard, 84 

Caswell, 3, 289 

Clark, 76, 78, 79 

De Russy, 245, 248 

Donekon, 158, 165, 168, 169 

Fisher, 289 

Games, 3, 257, 263, 270 

Hatteras, 76, 78-80 

Henry, 158, 165, 166 

Hindman, 206 

Jackson, 3, 142, 144, 156 

Jefferson, 13, 22, 27 

McAllister, 232 

McRee, 3, 9 

Morgan, 3, 257, 263, 270 

Moultrie, 3, 5, 232, 234 

Pemberton, 211, 214 

Pickens, 3, 8, 9, 16, 20-23, 27, 65 

Pillow, 175 

Powell, 257, 261, 270 

Pulaski, 3 

St. Philip, 3, 142, 144 

Sumter, 3, 16, 17, 26, 27, 233, 234 

Taylor, 13, 22, 27 

Wagner, 239 

Walker, 84, 87 
Foster, J. G., 4, 292 
Foster, J. P., 2 12 

Fox, G. V., 17, 26, 47, 50, 51, 122, 123, 
134, 136, 138, 161, 163, 167, 183, 
184, 197, 231, 258, 262, 282, 292, 
296, 297, 300 

Fraser, Trenholm and Company, 276 
Freeborn, U.S.S., 58, 59 
Fremont, J. C., 160, 161 

Gaines, C.S.S., 259, 263, 266, 268 
Galena, U.S.S., 102, 124, 125, 126, 128, 

226, 265 

General Parkhill, blockade-runner, 62 
General Price, C.S.S., 228 
General Sumter, C.S.S., 192 
Genessee, U.S.S., 218 
George Peabody, transport, 77 
Germantown, U.SJS., 30, 33, 41 
Gherardi, B., 265 
Gillmore, Q. A., 239, 294 
Glisson, O. S., 108 
Godon, S. W., 85 
Goldsborough, L. M., 107, 109, 112, 

124, 126, 127 
Governor, transport, 84 
Governor Moore, C-S.S., 153 
Grand Gulf, 183, 185, 193, 222 
Granger, G., 263, 264, 270 
Grant, U. S., 165, 167, 179, 196, 199, 

200, 203, 207, 208, 214, 217, 220, 

222, 242, 245, 249, 262, 293, 296, 

298, 300, 303 
Green, J., 251 
Greene, C. H., 265 
Greene, S.D., 119, 122 
Greer, J. A., 220 
Grinnell, M., 47 
Griswold, J. A., 105, 106 
Guest, J., 151, 188 

Gulf Blockading Squadron, 65, 70, 133 
Gwin, W., 165, 201, 202 

Haggerty, E. S., 85 
Hale, J. P., 53 


Halleck, H. H., 162, 172, 179, 190, 
196, 199, 207, 209, 221, 242, 244, 

245. 255 

Hampton Roads, 61, no, 115 
Harrell, A. D., 151, 188 
Harriet Lane, U.S.S., 19, 27, 77, 79, 

137, 151, 156, 188, 207 
Harrison, N. B., 149 
Hartford, U.S.S., 136, 141, 150, 151, 

152, 180, 181, 185, 186, 188, 189, 

218, 265, 266, 267, 269 
Hatteras, U.S.S., 280 
Hatteras Inlet, 54, 75 
Hay, J., 164, 232, 236 
Head of the Passes, 132 
Henry Clay, army transport, 220 
Hoel, W. R., 220 
Home Squadron, 60 
Housatonic, U.S.S., 230, 241 
Hunter, D., 232, 238, 239 
Huntington, C. L., 265 

Indianola, U.S.S., 213 

Ino, U.S.S., 274 

ironclad board, 101, 102, 104 

ironclads, 55, 99, 101, 102, 118, 124, 

129, 146 

Iroquois, U.S.S., 150, 186, 274 
Isaac Smith, U.S.S., 84, 85 
Isaac Webb, prize, 282 
Isherwood, B. F., 33, 34 
Island No. 10, 170, 171 
Itasca, U.S.S., 150, 153, 265 
Ivy, tug, 70, 220 

Jackson, A., 2 

Jacob Bell, prize, 285 

James Adger, U.S.S., 90 

James River Flotilla, 277 

Jamestown, G.S.S., 113, 125, 126 

Jeffers, W. N., 127 

Jefferson Davis, privateer, 63 

Jenkins, T. A., 265 

Johnston, A. S., 201 

Johnston, J. E., 222 

Joint Committee on the Conduct of 

the War, 299 
Jones, C., 114, 122 
Jouett, J. E., 265, 267 
/. P. Jackson, U.S.S., 151, 188 
Judah, C.S.S., 71 

Katahdin, U.S.$., 150, 186, 188, 189 
Kate Stewart, prize, 282 


Kearsarge, U.S.S., 274, 283, 284, 285 
Kennebec, U.S.S., 150, 153, 181, 186, 

188, 189, 265 
Kennon, B., 153 
Keokuk, U.S.S., 232, 233, 235, 236, 

237. 239 

Keystone State, U.S.S., 33, 43, 61, 230 
Kineo, U.S.S., 150, 156, 218 
Knowles, Quartermaster, 265 
Kraigbaum, J. D., 79 

Lackawanna, U.S.S., 265, 269 

Lafayette, U.S.S., 220 

Lairds of Birkenhead Ironworks, 276 

Lamon, W., 19 

Lancaster, U.S.S., 219 

Lardner, J. L., 85, 281 

Lee, R. E., 195 

Lee, S. P., 149, 155, 178, 181, 182, 186, 

280, 290-93 

Le Roy, W. E., 265, 269 
Letcher, Governor, 30 
Lexington, U.S.S., 160, 162, 165, 248, 

Lincoln, A., i, 14-16, 18, 19, 22, 23, 

25, *9 30, 34, 36> 44. 45* & 5> 

57, 64, 66, 74, 95, 103, 104, 115, 

116, 124, 126, 127, 134, 138, 161, 

164, 167, 172, 176, 183, 184, 189, 

1 93> *95'97 *99> 207, 208, 221, 

223, 224, 225, 230, 231, 236, 237, 

239, 241, 242, 247, 259, 262, 270, 

275, 285, 292, 295, 300, 302, 303, 

34 3<>5> 36 
Lincoln, Mrs. A., 303 
Louisiana, C.S.S., 156, 157 
Louisville, U.S.S., 168, 169, 205, 220, 


Lovell, M., 146, 154, 155 
Lowry, R. B., 77 

Macedonia, U.S.S., 12 

Macomb, W. H., 294, 295 

Maffitt, J. N., 13, 259 

Magruder, G., 49 

Mahan, A. T., 108 

Mdhopac, U.S.S., 301 

Mallory, S. R., 12, 100, 112 

Malvern, TLS.S., 303-5 

Manassas, C.S.S., 133, 146, 151, 152 

Manhattan, U.S.S., 261, 264 

Marchand, J. B., 265, 269 

Marston, J., 77, 117 

M. A. Shindler, prize, 882 


Mason, J. M., 89 

Massachusetts, U.S.S., 132 

Mathias Point, 59 

Maury, M. F., 49 

McCann, W. P., 265 

McCauley, C. S., 30, 33-36, 38, 41 

McClellan, G. B., 111, 124, 126, 134, 

138, 277 
McClernand, J. A., 196, 198, 199, 204-8, 


McKean, W. W., 62, 65, 71 
Meigs, M. C., 22, 24, 27, 172, 174 
Melbourne, British ship, 97 
Memphis, 175, 230 
Mercedita, U.S.S., 229, 230 
Mercer, S., 23, 24, 77 
Merrimack, U.S.S. (later the C.S.S. 

Virginia), 30-43, 55, 100, 105, 106, 

111-18, 121, 123, 125, 127 
Mervine, W., 65, 66, 71, 72 
Metacomet, U.S.S., 265, 266, 267 
Miami, U.S.S., 140, 151, 188 
Miantonomah, U.S.S., 306 
Miller and Sons, W. C., 276 
mines ("torpedoes"), 263, 267 
Minnesota, U.S.S., 6*2, 77, 78, 80, 112- 


Mississippi, C.S.S., 155 
Mississippi, transport, 139 
Mississippi, U.S.S., 65, 66, 140, 141, 

142, 149, 152, 218 
Mitchell, J. K., 148 
Mobile Bay, 257, 264, 270 
Mohawk, U.S.S., 13 
Mohican, U.S.S., 84, 85 
Moir, J., 93 

Monadnock, U.S.S., 301, 306 
Monitor, U.S.S., 105, 107, 111, 112, 

115-29,207, 226, 292 
monitors, light-draft, 260; defects of, 

236; dummy, 213 

Monongahela, U.S.S., 218, 265, 268 
Monroe, J. T., 155 
Montauk, 227, 230, 232, 235, 275, 292 
Montgomery, J. E. 175 
Uonticello, U.S.S., 77, 79 
Morgan, C.S.S., 259, 263, 266, 268 
Morgan, E. D., 47 
Morgan, G. D., 47, 53 
Morgan, G. W., 206 
Morgan, J. H., 195 
Morris, C, M., 286 
Morris, H. W., 149, 155 


Mortar Flotilla, 140, 146, 150, 173, 

178, 185, 188, 256 
Mound City, U.S.S., 175, 220, 255 
Murphy, J. M., 220 

Nahant, U.S.S., 233, 236 
Nantucket, U.S.S., 233, 234, 236 
Nashville, 165, 170 
Nashville, C.S.S., 89, 90, 228, 230, 272, 


Naugatuck, U.S.S., 124, 125, 128 
Naval Academy, 48 
naval expansion during the war, 305 
New Ironsides, U.S.S., 102, 228, 232, 

234, 241, 301 

New Orleans, 130, 134, 154 
New York, 30, 32 
Niagara, U.S.S., 62, 66, 71 
Nichols, E. T., 150, 182, 186 
Nicholson, J. W. A., 85, 264 
Nicolay, J., 23 

Norfolk Navy Yard, 29 ff., 39, 125 
North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, 

82, 107, 290, 294 

Octorara, U.S.S., 188, 189, 265, 266, 

267, 278 

Oneida, U.S.S., 149, 155, 178, 186, 265 
Onondaga, U.S.S., 302 
Osceola, transport, 83 
Ossippee, 265, 269 
Ottawa, U.S.S., 85, 87 
Ouachita, U.S.S., 248 
Owasco, U.S.S., 151, 188 
Owen, E. K., 220 
Ozark, U.S.S., 255 

Page, R. L., 33, 267, 269 

Palmer, J. S., 181, 182, 186, 374 

Palmetto State, C.S.S., 228, 229, 230 

Parker, W. A., 113, 302 

Parrott, E. G., 86 

Passaic, U.S.S., 226, 227, 232, 235, 292 

Patapsco, U.S.S., 232, 236 

Patrick Henry, C.S.S., 118 

Pauldhig, H., 33, 36, 38, 39, 40, 45, 

55, 101, 165 
Pawnee, U.S.S., 19, 26, 36, 38, 39, 41, 

4*> 43> 5& 64, 77, 79, 85 
Peerless f transport, 83 
Pegram, R. B., 30 
Pemberton, J. C., 222, 223 
Pembina, U.S-S., 85 
Pendergrast, G. J., 33, 37, 60, 113 


Penguin, U.S.S., 86 
Peninsula campaign, 109, 124 
Pennsylvania, U.S.S., 30, 37 
Pensacola, U.S.S., 139, 141, 149, 151, 

Pensacola Navy Yard, 9 

Perkins, G. H,, 264 

Phelps, S. L., 165, 168, 248 

Pickens, Governor, i, 4, 5, 18, 19 

Pilot Town, 143 

Pinola, U.S.S., 150, 186 

Pittsburg, U.S.S., 168, 169, 174, 220, 
222, 255 

Plymouth, U.S.S., 30, 33 

Pocahontas, U.S.S., 19, 27, 32, 58, 8$ 

Pook, S. M., 160, 162 

Poor, C. H., 11, 65, 71, 274 

Pope,]., 171, 174 

Port Hudson, La., 194, 217, 218, 222, 

Port Royal, 54, 73, 74, 82, 83, 85, 126, 

Porter, B. H., 301 

Porter, D. D., 22, 24, 25, 27, 28, 65, 
67, 70, 71, no, 134, 135, 136, 137, 
142, 146, 147, 148, 156, 178, 185, 
187, 188, 190, 195, 197, 199, 200, 

201, 202, 2O3, 2O5, 206, 208, 213, 
214, 215, 217, 220, 221, 223, 245, 
247, 249, 250, 252, 253, 256, 260, 
262, 274, 290, 293, 294, 295, 296, 
298> 299, 301, 302, 303, 304 

Porter, W. D., 165, 166, 192, 193 

Potomac Flotilla, 58, 59 

Powhatan, U.S.S., 19, 23, 27, 28, 50, 

65^7, 7!, 274 
Preble, G. H,, 150, 186 
Preble, U.S.S., 133 
Preston, S. W., 301 
Price, S., 246 

Princess Royal, British ship, 229 
Princeton, U.S.S., 103 

Quaker City, U.S.S., 230 
Queen, W. W., 137, 147 
Queen of the West, U.S.S., 191, 21*, 

Radford, W., 301 
Randolph, V, M., 10 
Ransom, G. M., 150 
R.B. Forbes, U.S.S., no, 137 
Read, G, W,, 281, 285 

Red River: 

blockade of, 218 

campaign, 242-55 

damming of, 253 

ironclads trapped in, 252 

traffic from, 212 
Renshaw, F. B., 9, 10, 151, 188 
Rhind, A. C., 233, 236, 237, 298 
Richmond, U.S.S. 133, 141, 150, 181, 

186, 188,218, 264,265 
Rinaldo, H.M.S., 98 
Ringgold, C., 84 
River Defense Fleet, Confederate, 146, 

153' 175 

River Queen, U.S.S., 303, 305 
Roanoke, U.S.S., 62, 63, 112, 114, 117 
Roanoke Island expedition, 109 
Roberts, M. <X, 6 
Rodgers, C. R, P., 85, 87 
Rodgers, G. W., 233, 237 
Rodgers, John, II, 36, 40, 42, 87, 160, 

161, 232, 235 
Roe, Lieutenant, 151 
Ronckendorff, W., 304 
Ross, L. F., 210 
Rowan, S. C., 26, 77 
Russell, J. H., 150, 182, 186 

Sabine, U.S.S., n, 12, 84 
St. Lawrence, U.S.S., 114 
St. Louis, U.S.S., 11, 12, 165, 167, 169, 


San Jacinto, U.S.S., 91, 92, 279 
Sands, B. F., 36, 40, 291 
Santiago de Cuba, U.S.S., 278 
Saugus, U.S.S., 301 
Savannah, privateer, 63 
Sciota, U.S.S., 150, 179, 186, 188 
Scott, W., 6, 16, 18, 32, 36, 45, 46, 75 
Selfridge, T. O. 201, 253 
Selma, C.S.S., 259, 263, 266, 268 
Seminole, U.S.S., 85, 265 
Semmes, R., 48, 70, 272, 274, 279, 283 
Seneca, U.S.S., 85 
Seward, W. H., 17, 21, 25, 46, 97, 116, 

242, 244, 281, 286, 303 
Shatemuc, prize, 282 
Sherman, Thomas West, 55, 73, 82, 

Sherman, William Tecumseh, 199, 

38OO, 201, 203, 205, 206, 207, 214, 

316, 222, 246, 261, 263, 296, 303 
Ship Island, 132, 139 
Shirk, J. W., 165, 220 


Shreveport, 245 

Silver Wave, transport, 220 

5. /. Waring, prize, 64 

Slemmer, A. J., 3, 8, 12, 21 

Slidell, Miss, 94. 

Slidell, J., 12, 89, 94, 96 

Smith, A. J., 246, 248, 253 

Smith, A. N., 150 

Smith, Joseph, Commodore, 46, 55, 

101, 104, 106, 116, 136 
Smith, Joseph, son of Commodore, 


Smith, Kilby, 250, 251 
Smith, Kirby, 244-47 
Smith, M., 149 
Smith, W., 113 

Smith, Watson, 137, 147, 210, 211 
Sonoma, U.S.S., 278 
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, 

74, 82, 224, 239 
Spottswood, C. F. M., 42 

Stanton, E. M., 115, 127, 138, 196, 

242, 300, 304 

Star of the West, S.S., 6, 7 
Steedman, C., 85-87 
Steele, F., 200, 245, 246, 252 
Steele's Bayou, 214 
Stellwagen, H. $ 77, 229 
Stembel, R. N., 165 
Stevens, T. H,, 85, 264 
Stevens battery, 99, 101 
Stimers, A. C., 122, 260 
Stockton, R. F., 103 
stone fleet, used for blockade, 54, 75, 

no, 226 

Sto\ve,Mrs. H. B., 215 
strategy board, 73, 130, 132 
Stringham, S. H., 23, 25, 54, 59, 61, 

75, 76, 80, 81 
Strong, J. H., 265, 268 
Sumter, C.S,S., 70, 272, 273, 274 
Supply, U.S.S., 9, 11 
Susquehannah, U.S.S., 77, 85 
Switzerland^ U.S.S., 219 

Tacony, C.S.S., 282 

Talbot, T., 20 

Taliaferro, General, 37, 39, 40 

Tatnall, J., 85, 126, 127 

Taylor, R., 240 

Tecumseh, U.S.S., 261, 264, 266, 270 

Tennessee, CSS., 259, 263, 264, 266, 

268, 260 
Terry, A, H., 290, 300, 301 


Theodora, blockade-runner, 90, 91 

Thomas, L., 6 

Thompson, W. B., 76 

Tilghman, L., 167 

Tioga, U.S.S., 278 

Todd, Captain, 189 

Toucey, L, 11 

trading permits, 291 

Trent, English mail packet, 91, 92, 97 

Trent case, 274 

Turner, T., 232, 234 

Tuscarora, U.S.S., 274 

Tuscumbia, U.S.S., 220, 222 

Tyler, U.S.S., 160, 162, 165, 169, 191 

Unadilla, U.S.S., 85 
Union, transport, 83 

Vallandigham, C. L., 96 

Van Brunt, G. J., 77, 118, 120, 122 

Van Dorn, C.S.S., 176 

Van Dorn, E., 203 

Vandalia, U.S.S., 85 

Vanderbilt, U.S.S., 83, 125, 277, 280, 


Varuna, U-S.S-, 140, 150, 153 
canal, 209 
city, 181, 187, 194 
flanking operations, 

Lake Providence, 210 


Yazoo Pass, 210 
passage of, 

by Farragut, 186 

by Porter, 220 
Vincennes, U.S.S., 133 
Virginia, C.S.S. See Merrimack 
Vodges, I., 12 

Wabash, U.S.S., 62, 77-78, 83, 85, 87 
Wachusett, U.S.S., 278, 281, 285 
Wainwright, J. M., 151, 188 
Wainwright, R^ 150, 154, 182, 186 
Walke, H., 11, 165, 168, 173-74- ifl 8 * 


Wardrop, D. W., 36 
Warrenton, Miss., 209 
Waterwitch, U5.S., 65 
Watmough, G. P., 86 
Watson, J, C., 267 
Weehawken, U.S.S., 252-35 
Weitzd, G., 146, 296, 297, 299, 305 


Welles, G.: 

appoints: ironclad board, 55 
strategy board, 52 

characterized, 51 

emergency measures, 47 

organization of squadrons, 52, 54, 
82, 195, 258, 277 

plan of operations, 55 

policy: on blockade, 72 
on commerce raiders, 271 
on ironclads, 99 

procurement of ships, 52 

other references: 15, 17, 19, 21-25, 
29> 32, 35-36, 46-49, 53, 60, 62, 
66-67, 71, 73, 75, 82, 88, 95, 101, 
104, 115, 132, 134-36, 160-61, 164, 
167, 171, 175, 184, 197, 207, 209, 
221, 223, 225, 230, 237-38, 242, 
252, 261, 262, 270-71, 274, 278-82, 
285-86, 291-92, 294-95, 299, 303, 

Wells, C. H., 265 
Western Flotilla, 161, 197 
Western Gulf Blockading Squadron, 
136, 140, 141 


Westfield, U.S.S., 151, 188 

Wilkes, C., 36, 40-41, 91-92, 129, 258, 

277, 280-81, 286 
Williams, J., 59 
Williams, R., 94 
Williams, T., 179-87, 193, 209 
Wilmington, N. C., 289, 292 
Wilson, B., 220 
Winnebago, U.S.S., 261, 264 
Winona, U.S.S., 150, 153, 186 
Winser, H. J., 87 
Winslow, J. A., 283 

Wise, H. A., 36, 38, 39, 164, 167, 172 
Wissahickon, U.S.S., 150, 156, 186, 188 
Woodford, army hospital boat, 250 
Woodworth, S. E., 151, 188 
Wool, J. E., 75, 83 
Worden, J. L., 21, ill, 117, 119, 121, 

230, 232, 236 
Wright, H. G., 36, 40, 42 
Wyandotte, U.S.S., 9, 12, 13, 28 
Wyman, R. H., 85 

Yankee, U.S.S., 37, 41, 47 
Yorktown, C.S.S., 113, 125, 126 

1 22 894